Friends at Darmstadt mourn loss of a comrade
Stars and Stripes October 29, 2004
DARMSTADT, Germany — When Sgt. 1st Class Dwayne Gethers, the acting first sergeant for Company C, 440th Signal Battalion, belted out Cpl. Jacques Francois Kessler’s name, there were muffled sobs.
No one in the packed community chapel answered for the missing corporal, so instead, the volleys of a 21-gun salute replied for the crowd. The corporal is dead.
A memorial service for Kessler, who was found dead in his Cambrai-Fritsch Casern barracks room late Monday morning, was held Thursday afternoon at the small community chapel.
The community’s grief was seen in the faces of mourners. Many unit members, friends, and co-workers spoke of the “sudden and unexpected death,” of Kessler, who was president of the 233rd Base Support Battalion Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.
Jayme Loppnow, a spokeswoman for the 233rd BSB, said the Criminal Investigation Command has taken charge of the investigation, but is not speculating or releasing any information on how Kessler died.
Kessler’s father, John, said he hasn’t been given much information about his son’s death.
“I don’t know anything,” John Kessler said during a telephone interview from his Ohio home. “I don’t want to say anything that might be contradictory … but there are rumors. I hear everything from foul play to suicide. We’ll just have to wait and find out.”
At the memorial service, brigade and company commanders remembered Jacques Kessler as a troop who could always “take things in stride” and “have a smile on his face.”
Cpl. James Vernon Ridings offered a tribute to his friend during the service, saying Kessler’s energy is what drew people to him.
“We should not grieve his death, but celebrate the life he had,” Ridings said while controlling the emotion in his voice.
At the end of the service, photos of Kessler were displayed on a projection screen, many of which where taken with the unit while deployed.
John Kessler said his son had a difficult time when the unit deployed to Iraq in March 2003. His son had “command problems” that never got resolved after returning to Darmstadt, the father said.
He called the details surrounding his son’s death confusing.
John Kessler said he doesn’t know what to believe and hopes the military finds out something soon.