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Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle chats with Army Sgt. Robert Vallery, left, and Staff Sgt. Arthur Walker during a Wednesday visit to Dexheim, Germany. Doyle, who is on an 8-day trade mission to three European countries, stopped in Dexheim to dine with soldiers from Wisconsin and check out heavy equipment transport trucks manufactured in Oshkosh, Wis.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle chats with Army Sgt. Robert Vallery, left, and Staff Sgt. Arthur Walker during a Wednesday visit to Dexheim, Germany. Doyle, who is on an 8-day trade mission to three European countries, stopped in Dexheim to dine with soldiers from Wisconsin and check out heavy equipment transport trucks manufactured in Oshkosh, Wis. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle chats with Army Sgt. Robert Vallery, left, and Staff Sgt. Arthur Walker during a Wednesday visit to Dexheim, Germany. Doyle, who is on an 8-day trade mission to three European countries, stopped in Dexheim to dine with soldiers from Wisconsin and check out heavy equipment transport trucks manufactured in Oshkosh, Wis.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle chats with Army Sgt. Robert Vallery, left, and Staff Sgt. Arthur Walker during a Wednesday visit to Dexheim, Germany. Doyle, who is on an 8-day trade mission to three European countries, stopped in Dexheim to dine with soldiers from Wisconsin and check out heavy equipment transport trucks manufactured in Oshkosh, Wis. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Gov. Jim Doyle chats with Army Pfc. Laura Dierich of Freedom, Wis.
Gov. Jim Doyle chats with Army Pfc. Laura Dierich of Freedom, Wis. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

DEXHEIM, Germany — Hours before Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle boarded a plane for an eight-day trade mission to Europe, he attended a memorial service for a 32-year-old Army reservist who died from injuries sustained in Iraq.

The soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew R. Kading, was reportedly the 48th Wisconsin servicemember to die as a result of the war in Iraq, quite high for a state with only 6 million residents. On a per capita basis, Wisconsin’s battlefield losses rank it right up there with Texas, both in the upper third of a category neither wants to lead.

“In Wisconsin, this is really a small town war,” Doyle said Wednesday while on a visit to Germany.

The governor was at Anderson Barracks in Dexheim to have breakfast with a few of his constituents and to get a firsthand look at heavy equipment transport vehicles manufactured for the U.S. Army in Oshkosh, Wis.

Dexheim is home to the 123rd Main Support Battalion.

Many of the troops Doyle met hail from small communities. Take Pfc. Laura Dierich, a truck driver who grew up in a town with three gas stations, three bars, a church and no stoplights. Size of her high school class: 50.

Fittingly, Dierich’s hometown is called Freedom.

Doyle’s visit “is very uplifting,” the 23-year-old said. “It makes you feel like you are important, that you’re doing something special.”

Spc. Mike Isaacson, 21, of Lake Geneva, Wis., chatted with Doyle about basic training, life as a military truck driver and the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be eating with your governor,” Isaacson said.

Doyle, a Democrat, was scheduled to leave Wednesday for Prague before concluding his trip with a visit to Poland.

Some of the Dexheim soldiers who got close to Doyle are from Illinois, a neighbor and rival. No jocular jabs were exchanged, even though the Chicago Bears are in first place in a division that includes the Packers.

“He asked me if I’m a Packer fan or a Bears fan,” said Sgt. Robert Vallery, who briefed Doyle on the trucks. “I didn’t rub it in or anything.”

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