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Army Sgt. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.

Died March 22, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

29, of Providence, R.I.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 56th Troop Command, Rhode Island National Guard, East Greenwich, R.I.; died March 22 in Jalalabad, Laghman province, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered in a noncombat incident.

R.I. guardsman killed in accident in Afghanistan

The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — An 11-year member of the Rhode Island National Guard has been killed in a vehicle accident while serving in Afghanistan.

Spc. Dennis Weichel died March 22 in Afghanistan.

State Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride announced the death March 23.

Weichel joined the National Guard in 2001. He was a member of a unit based in East Greenwich, R.I., that arrived in Afghanistan earlier this month. The unit is conducting security operations in Laghman Province.

A Pawtucket resident, Weichel is survived by three children and his parents.

National Guard spokeswoman Sgt. Megan Burmeister could not provide details on the accident.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor Weichel.

R.I. guardsman died after saving Afghan girl

The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Military officials say a Rhode Island National Guard member struck and killed by an armored vehicle in Afghanistan last week had moved an Afghan girl to safety shortly before the accident.

The National Guard on March 28 released details of the March 22 accident that killed 29-year-old Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. of Providence and called him a hero.

Officials say Weichel's unit was in Laghman province when they encountered several Afghan children in the path of their convoy. They say Weichel saw a girl trying to retrieve an item under the armored vehicle and moved her to safety, then was struck.

Visiting hours are set for 4 p.m. April 1 at Olson & Parent Funeral Home in Providence.

He will be buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.

Fallen guardsman called ‘true hero and patriot’

The Associated Press

WARWICK, R.I. — The commander of the Rhode Island National Guard on Saturday paid glowing tribute to a soldier who was killed by an armored vehicle while trying to save a girl in Afghanistan, saying the 29-year-old is “a true hero and patriot.”

Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, the adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard, spoke after the body of Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. arrived at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick under snow and rain conditions Saturday morning.

Military officials say Weichel had moved an Afghan girl to safety shortly before he was struck and killed by armored vehicle in an accident on March 22.

Weichel, of Providence, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the NATO Service Medal Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon RI Star.

His body was received by a military funeral honor detachment in a ceremony overseen by Gov. Lincoln Chafee and McBride, National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Denis Riel said.

“On this sober day, we are honored to welcome back the remains of a true hero and patriot, Sgt. Dennis Weichel,” McBride said at the ceremony.

Weichel’s mother, father, fiance and three children were also present, along with other members of his family and the mother of his two oldest children.

“We are cognizant of our perpetual duty to provide for his family and to ensure that their needs are met at this trying time and well into the future,” the Rhode Island National Guard chief said.

Visiting hours are set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Olson & Parent Funeral Home in Providence.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, April 2 at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. It will be followed by burial at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.

RI soldier who died saving Afghan boy laid to rest

By Erika Niedowski, The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island National Guard sergeant who was killed in Afghanistan while saving an Afghan boy was remembered Monday for having the “courage of a warrior” and the “heart of a father.”

At a memorial service at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, fellow soldiers and friends recalled Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr.’s goofy smile, his obsession with Superman and a selflessness that left no one who knew him surprised to hear how he died.

The 29-year-old Providence resident was struck and killed by an armored vehicle on March 22 in Laghman Province after moving an Afghan boy to safety who was trying to retrieve something underneath the vehicle.

Weichel had been a member of the Rhode Island National Guard since 2001.

In his eulogy, Rhode Island National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride said Weichel should be remembered as a hero who acted without a second thought for his own safety, saving the boy from certain death. The military had previously reported the child was a girl.

Weichel leaves behind a son and two daughters.

“Dennis Weichel had the courage of a warrior, but that isn’t what drove him to save Zaillah. What drove Dennis to save that child was the heart of a father,” McBride said.

“The dictionary defines a hero as a person of remarkable bravery who is admired for noble deeds. Dennis was incredibly brave. He twice volunteered to serve his country in a war zone. And that is how you should remember him — as a hero, a brave solider who embodied the best of us all.”

Weichel was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and NATO Service Medal Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon RI Star. He was buried with full military honors at the state Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.

He mobilized with Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, to Camp Atterbury in Indiana in November and was deployed to Afghanistan in early March.

McBride said that Weichel was proud of a Superman tattoo on his right arm and that his fiancée Ashley recalled that he even referred to himself as the superhero at times.

“Given what we know today that was not too far from the truth about Dennis,” McBride said.

He spent three weeks planning a trip home in December to surprise his children for Christmas. Son Nicholas wrote a letter to his father after his death that National Guard chaplain Capt. Timothy Bourquin read aloud at the service.

“I really, really miss you. I promise I will protect my sisters, Hope and Madison, like you told me to,” the boy wrote. “You are my hero. I know you are in heaven watching over me. You are the brightest star.”

Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, who deployed with Weichel to Iraq in 2005, said he hoped Weichel was smiling his goofy smile even while family and friends cried for him.

“It’s you who taught me to live life to the fullest, love your family and friends a little more each day and go to bed each night, no matter what, with a smile on your face,” Corbett said.

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