- Family, Town Grieves For Fallen American Hero
- Note - With every new death in Iraq comes more pain,
anguish and irreplaceable loss...for American and Iraqi families alike.
There are no winners in war. We, too, feel these losses and present the
following story in tribute to all of our precious, heroic young men and
women who made the ultimate sacrifice or have been wounded serving their
- 2nd/Lt. Jeremy Wolfe of Menomonie, who died Saturday
in a collision of two Black Hawk helicopters near Mosul, Iraq
- Two symbols of our war in Iraq -- an American flag and
a yellow ribbon -- were displayed prominently at the David "Butch"
Wolfe residence in rural Menomonie Monday afternoon.
- The hope that the yellow ribbon symbolizes -- for a soldier's
safe return home -- is gone. Inside, a family sits in shocked grief as
they realize that never again will they share a joke, a hug, or a story
with the tall, handsome soldier who smiles up at them from the photographs
carefully arranged on the dining room table.
- It helps them, though, to know that 2nd/Lt. Jeremy L.
Wolfe -- their son, husband, grandson, nephew, cousin -- has died doing
something he loved to do.
- "He loved flying helicopters," said his mother,
Jane (Cass) Utpadel, of Wheeler. "He knew the risks; he wasn't going
over there blindsided."
- Proud to be a "Screaming Eagle," Wolfe was
a Flight Platoon Leader with the 101st Aviation Regiment.
- On Saturday night, Wolfe was among the 17 soldiers --
all members of the 101st Airborne -- who died just after sundown when a
pair of Black Hawk helicopters collided in mid-air over a residential suburb
outside Mosul, Iraq's third largest city. Unconfirmed reports indicate
that Wolfe was the pilot of either a helicopter carrying a quick reaction
force or another that was taking a group of soldiers on a transport mission.
- Shortly after the crash, a U.S. officer in Mosul who
declined to be identified told Reuters that one of the aircraft was hit
on the tail wing by a rocket-propelled grenade.
- Despite the fact that both a house and a school were
hit by the downed helicopters, no civilian casualties have been reported.
- The incident marks the largest loss of American life
since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March. In addition to the
17 who died, the casualty count includes five soldiers wounded and one
- College or Army?
- That was the question Wolfe pondered after graduating
from Colfax High School in 1995. During his high school career, Wolfe (then
known as Jeremy Cass) attended both Colfax and Menomonie High Schools.
He joined the National Guard during his junior year.
- "He went to UW-Stout for a year and worked at Wal-Mart"
recalled Wolfe's father, Butch. "But working and going to school got
to be too much."
- After talking to an Army recruiter, the young man told
his father that he'd been offered his choice of duty: Fort Bragg, N.C.,
or Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
- "We both raised our hands and I said, 'Aloha,' Butch
said. "He always wanted adventure in his life."
- Although Wolfe entered the service as an enlisted man,
the Army offered him many opportunities for advancement. After two years,
he attended Ranger, Airborne, and Jump School. His excellent record earned
him a Green and Gold Scholarship and a chance to go to college.
- While his wife, Christine Tadeo (whom he met in the Army)
went to Hawaii State, Wolfe spent four years at Hawaii Pacific University,
graduating with honors in 2002 with a degree in computer science.
- Only one out of 30 in the nation, he was chosen for officer
training in Great Britain. In the meantime, Christine headed for Ft. Bliss
in Texas for special training.
- His return stateside saw Wolfe headed to flight school
in Ft. Rucker, Ala. where he graduated among the top five in his class,
with special training in night vision and tactical combat flight.
- The next stop on the young officer's journey was a posting
with the 101st Airborne Division in Ft. Campbell, Ky. before being deployed
on Oct. 4 to northern Iraq.
- He and Christine joked about the fact that, as a First
Lieutenant, she outranked her husband. Wolfe was scheduled to receive his
commission as a 1st/Lt. on Dec. 1.
- The couple married, Butch explained, so that they could
be stationed together but despite their hopes, that was not to be. Just
last week, Christine returned to the States after a year-long posting to
- As soon as Wolfe arrived in Iraq, he went from tent to
tent looking for his second cousin and fellow member of the 101st Airborne,
Spc. Scott Peterson.
- Back home in Menomonie as of Sunday on a two-week leave,
Peterson expressed how glad he was to see a face from home.
- "One day about a month ago, he came into my tent
asking if anybody knew where I was," he said. "It was really
good to see him."
- Although he'll miss seeing him in the chow line, Peterson
noted, "He was proud of what he was doing and wanted to be there."
- His father, John Peterson, is Butch's cousin, although
according to Wolfe's grandmother, Goldie, the pair grew up more like brothers.
- "He was an all-American, outstanding kid,"
the elder Peterson observed. "Jeremy really excelled in the service,
read a lot of history about the Army. It looked like he was planning on
making the military his life's career."
- Memories of a fine young man
- Menomonie High School physical education teacher Connie
Stokes enjoyed having Wolfe in her class.
- "He was a very nice young man, very polite -- a
good kid," she said. "I wasn't surprised to hear he was in the
- Joe Doucette, Colfax High School track and girls basketball
coach, also shared fond memories of a young man he described as "a
very talented kid, part of a group of some pretty good kids. He ran cross
country and was on the track team and just kept getting better and better."
- One of those "pretty good kids" was CHS teammate,
Adam Topper, now MHS cross country coach.
- "During the track season in the spring of '94, Jeremy
and I were part of the Second-Team All-Conference 4x800 meter Relay team,"
he said. "I had a lot of respect for him because he worked pretty
hard and paid a lot of attention to details. He always brought a positive
attitude to the team and was always trying to get the other guys on the
squad ready to race hard.
- "I remember that our relay had a slim chance of
making it to State that year and Jeremy really spent a lot of time trying
to convince everyone that we could do it and looked for ways that we could
improve," Topper continued. "Primarily what I remember about
Jeremy is his odd sense of humor, his work ethic and his attention to detail."
- Bob Peterson, a retired MHS social studies teacher and
track coach, remembered Wolfe from both geography class and the track field.
- "He made it a point to visit with me during the
Dunn-St. Croix Invitational track meet in Menomonie," he recalled.
"Jeremy was a very nice young man."
- "He was fun and lighthearted, never any trouble,"
Butch said. "My son always had his hand out to help anyone. If he
thought they could do it, he'd push them to do better."
- "He was also the apple of his grandma's eye,"
he noted, pointing to his mother, Goldie Wolfe as she sat listening quietly
to her son's recollections. "They had a very special relationship."
- "He was always looking after me," Goldie agreed.
- His eyes welling with emotion, Butch concluded, "Jeremy
was not only a leader, he was an officer and a gentleman. We're very proud
of him ... and we're really going to miss him."
- Remembering the huge dimples he sported as a baby, Wolfe's
mother described her son as a very intense, focused, and complex individual.
- Still reeling from the shock, Utpadel said, "You
always figure it's going to be somebody else. He made so many good friends
in the military, especially down in Alabama. This is going to be really
hard on them, too."
- She'll miss his long, rambling phone calls, telling her
in detail about all he was doing and learning.
- "We just sent him a package with a pillow and some
aftershave," she added. "He said he was having a hard time sleeping
with the pillow they gave him. I wonder who'll get it now."
- A memorial service is being planned at Our Savior's Lutheran
Church in Menomonie at an as-yet unspecified date. Olson Funeral Home will
handle the arrangements.