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Army Staff Sgt. David F. Day

Died February 21, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

25, of Saint Louis Park, Minn.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, Montevideo, Minn.; killed Feb. 21 when an improvised explosive device detonated as he was assisting injured soldiers in his command in Baghdad. Also killed were Army 1st Lt. Jason G. Timmerman and Army Sgt. Jesse M. Lhotka.

Day ‘found his way with duty, honor and courage’

Army Command Sergeant Major Erik Arnie talked about Staff Sgt. David F. Day at a flag-pole dedication ceremony in his honor on July 9 during Pioneer Prairie Days in Minnesota. — Ed.

The date of 21 February 2005 has been etched into the small communities of Western Minnesota, such as Appleton, Marshall and Morris, for all eternity. For it was on that day that the lives of three young, brave men from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery, were sacrificed for their country and their comrades half a world away.

On that morning 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, Staff Sgt. David Day and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka were conducting what was supposed to be an ordinary mission. The mission turned out to be anything but ordinary.

First Lt. Timmerman, Staff Sgt. Day and Sgt. Lhotka were traveling in the 2nd Echelon of Charlie Company on mission. They had departed the company area at approximately 7 a.m. First Lt. Timmerman and Staff Sgt. Day were in the same Humvee with their driver. Sgt. Lhotka was in another Humvee, with his driver and gunner, that lost control somehow, left the road and began to roll, injuring two soldiers. The small convoy stopped and did what it was trained to do, provide security around the scene and begin assisting the injured. Staff Sgt. David Day, the squad leader of most of those on the scene, did exactly what he was trained to do, take care of his men. After a medevac was called in, the first injured soldier was carried to a helicopter. The second soldier was being carried on a stretcher by 1st Lt. Timmerman; Staff Sgt. Day, Sgt. Lhotka and a soldier from another unit who had also stopped to provide security. As they carried the soldier across the road towards the helicopter an explosion occurred within a few feet of the group. Three soldiers from Western Minnesota died that morning and two others were seriously wounded.

Many of you did not personally know Staff Sgt. David Day — but you did. You know of the boys who grew up from this area; playing ball in the park, riding bikes to the store with a buck from mowing and excitement on what awaited, swimming and fishing in the Pomme de Terre, playing cops and robbers throughout the neighborhood, chasing the fire trucks when they came flashing by, going to Scout camp; and pretending the enemies of America were in the backyard and he was an Army sergeant stopping them in their tracks.

You know of the young men, desiring to be their own man, going off to vocational school or college or joining the service or going to work in the elevator and eventually finding their own way. You know of the those men finding their sweethearts. Oh yes, you know Dave Day — but he was more.

Dave found that serving and protecting was his calling. Whether a police officer with the St. Louis Park Police Department, or a soldier in the Minnesota Army National Guard, or a son and a husband, Dave Day was dedicated to serving and giving back to those who had given to him. Staff Sgt. Day lived out his childhood imaginings and found his own way with duty, honor and courage.

Duty: an act or course of action required of one by position, custom, law or regulation. Moral obligation: the compulsion felt to meet such obligations. These are just a few of the definitions listed in most dictionaries.

On the morning of 21 February 2005, Staff Sgt. Day was performing his duty. More than just the duty that he swore to the day he pledged the oath to serve his president and country. He was doing the duties of a warrior. “I will always place the mission first.” He was out on a mission; helping to protect and secure the new state of Iraq. He did not hesitate to accept this mission when the Charlie Company commander issued it, therefore placing the mission ahead of himself. “I will never accept defeat.” He did not accept defeat; when one of his own teams lost a vehicle, he reacted quickly to recover his soldiers and vehicle and attempted to continue on with the assigned mission.

Honor: personal integrity maintained without legal or other obligations;

“I will never quit.” He certainly did not quit just because something had gone wrong — he obligated himself to carry on as did the rest of his squad from Company C to set up security around the perimeter of the scene and help his comrades.

Courage: Some say that courage is the lack of fear. I say courage is having fear, but knowing and understanding your fear — using it to motivate you and knowing how to put it aside when duty calls. Staff Sgt. Day certainly overcame any fears when he assessed the situation and reacted in a way to assist his men. “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

It is right that we pay tribute to Staff Sgt. David Day and place a memorial within his community — but not just as a reminder of a boy, a man, a son and a husband, but that of a servant with duty, honor and courage — to those he loved dearly and those he served bravely.

I am honored and proud to be a part of this event. And to Amy, David and Vickie — on behalf of the 1st Battalion 151st Field Artillery, the community of Morris, the state of Minnesota and the Army National Guard, the St. Louis Park Police and friends — thank you for letting all of us know Dave.

He will be forever remembered!

Minnesota towns honor fallen soldier

MORRIS, Minn. — Two by two, a procession of 110 squad cars with lights flashing drove slowly and silently through this western Minnesota city.

A Blackhawk helicopter flew over the procession, flying low enough to create a stir of dust.

And when a white hearse carrying Staff Sgt. David Day drove by, people laid down pink, red and peach roses on the streets of Morris in tribute to a Minnesota soldier who laid down his life last week in Iraq.

Day, 25, a Morris native who was a St. Louis Park police officer, was one of three members of the same Minnesota National Guard unit who were killed Feb. 21 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Separate funerals were held earlier in the week for 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman of Tracy, and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka of Alexandria. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and first lady Mary Pawlenty attended all of the funerals.

After the procession passed Thursday, the crowd dissipated, leaving a line of roses behind them.

“It kind of just overwhelms you, there’s so much support here,” said Carolyn Smith, who held an American flag.

Day, the youngest child of David and Vicki Day, was remembered as a hardworking, good-humored and courageous young man.

An estimated 1,000 people packed Assumption Catholic Church for Day’s funeral. Their ranks included more than 250 law enforcement members from 70 agencies, including 65 from the St. Louis Park Police Department, which swore in Day in February 2004, and the staffs of the Morris police and Stevens County sheriff’s departments. Day had also worked as a community service officer in Morris.

Seating and closed-circuit televisions were set up in the church basement and at St. Mary’s School to accommodate the large numbers.

The Rev. Alan Wielinski shared family stories about Day and reiterated that Day had “laid down his life for his friends.” The three soldiers were killed while coming to the aid of injured comrades.

“The selfless service of David, and countless other soldiers like him, gives witness to some of the very best of human qualities: courage, faithfulness, selflessness, steadfastness, loyalty and love unto death,” he said.

Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis said Day was a “great kid.”

“A lot of people are liked. A lot of people are respected. But it’s hard to be both,” Willis said. “He pulled it off.”

Capt. Kirk DiLorenzo of the St. Louis Park Police Department worked with Day for two years. He stood on the church steps while Day’s coffin was brought in and out.

“All of the officers are heartbroken,” he said.

Day married his longtime girlfriend, Amy Gulbrandson, 12 days before his deployment in October. Sgt. 1st Class James Howe was Day’s first sergeant and knew Day for about five years.

“He’s not only a good soldier, but a good individual, a great person,” Howe said before the funeral. “The kind of guy you’d want your daughter to marry.”

Before the procession, Brian Brummond, of Morris, spoke of his “very hard emotions.” His son, Joshua, 23, is in Day’s unit — the Montevideo-based 151st Field Artillery — and was assigned to gather the personal belongings of Day, Timmerman and Lhotka to be sent back home.

“He said it was one of the hardest things he’s had to do,” Brummond said.

— Associated Press

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