One last goodbye
May 31, 2003
WEISBADEN, Germany — Muffled cries could be heard throughout the hymn at a ceremony Friday honoring two 1st Armored Division military police who died Monday in Iraq.
The fallen soldiers — Staff Sgt. Brett J. Petriken, 30, of Flint, Mich., and Pvt. Kenneth A. Nalley, 19, of Hamburg, Iowa — of the 501st MP Company, were remembered through tributes and eulogies from friends and family.
The two soldiers died in a noncombat incident in As Samawah, Iraq, when they were escorting a convoy. A heavy-equipment transporter crossed the median and struck their Humvee, according to a 1st Armored Division news release. The incident remains under investigation.
On Friday, tears flowed as people stood before two displayed M16A2 rifles — each topped with a desert camo-covered Kevlar — that stood before dusty boots and dangling dog tags. Pictures of the soldiers stared back at visitors through bouquets of spring flowers.
Staff Sgt. Waymona McIntee provided a memorial tribute for both soldiers and spoke on behalf of the families, asking soldiers, friends, and family to “stay strong and be strong.”
But for some, this message was hard to live out.
Staff Sgt. Byron Lewis, Petriken’s best friend, said the last time he saw his friend, they had made a vow that they would meet again at Drill Sergeant School in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
“His dream will continue on through all of us,” Lewis said, whose only wish from the family was to have a set of Petriken’s dog tags to wear. “I never had a friend like him, I probably never will. ... He’s gone — but not forgotten.”
Janet Thomas, wife of the company first sergeant, explained how Nalley’s upbeat personality, smile and work ethic contributed to the success of the unit. She explained how his absence will be felt by everyone in the unit.
Petriken’s wife, Christine, and 8-year-old daughter, Rhiannon, accepted condolences from people as the crowd left the chapel.
Christine Petriken accepted hugs, tears and smiles and left a message with the soldiers of her husband’s unit: “Keep pushing, be strong, and keep your heads up.”