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Army Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Bolander

Died April 29, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

26, of Bakersfield, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died April 29 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

California soldier dies before wedding

The Associated Press

VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. — A decorated California soldier was killed in Iraq just weeks before he was due to be sent home for his wedding, his father said.

Army Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Bolander, 26, of Bakersfield, Calif., died Tuesday after his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Baghdad.

He had planned to be back in the U.S. about a week before his June 6 wedding, said his father, Greg Bolander of Virginia City, about 20 miles southeast of Reno.

“His commander, his master sergeant, was to be the best man at his wedding,” Greg Bolander told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Now, he will accompany his body home.”

Bryan Bolander was on his fourth tour of duty in Iraq when he died. He joined the Army in April 2000 and arrived at Fort Campbell in Kentucky in November 2002.

“I have a hard time understanding four tours,” Greg Bolander told the Nevada Appeal. “But he was a very dedicated Army person. He loved his job.”

Bryan Bolander’s stepmother, Brenda Bolander, and grandparents, Jack and Dorothy Bolander, also live in Virginia City.

He also is survived by his son, Tyler Bolander, 4, of St. Louis, and his mother and stepfather, Toni and Robert Kahrmann of Clarksville, Tenn.

A memorial service will be held in Iraq and burial will be in the Clarksville Veterans Cemetery in Tennessee.

Including Bolander, 12 soldiers from Fort Campbell died in April and 234 soldiers from the base on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line have been killed since the war started.

During his Army career, Bolander received numerous awards and medals, including the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, which is typically awarded to soldiers who perform heroically in combat.

Army Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Bolander remembered

The Associated Press

Being a soldier wasn’t just a way to get a steady paycheck for Bryan E. Bolander.

“He loved his job, loved being a Ranger,” said his father, Greg Bolander. “His commander, his master sergeant, was to be the best man at his wedding.”

Bolander, 26, of Bakersfield, Calif., was killed April 29 in Baghdad after his vehicle struck an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Campbell and was on his fourth tour.

He had been drawn to military service ever since he was a boy.

“He wasted no time — he enlisted when he was 18, but he loved what he did,” Greg Bolander said.

He planned to marry his fiancee, Sandra, in June. He loved to fish in the ocean, whether he caught anything or not.

“He was an awesome kid,” Greg Bolander said. “He played every sport, and he was a straight-A student. He was never in trouble.”

He visited his grandparents last year when one of his buddies got married in Las Vegas.

“He was about 5-foot-9-inches tall and was stocky as a kid, but when I hugged him, he was hard as nails. He told me he did push-ups during the commercials when he was watching TV,” said his grandfather, Jack Bolander.

He also is survived by his son, Tyler, 4.

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