Family, Town Grieves For
Fallen American Hero

By Barbara Lyon
News Editor
© 2003 The Chippewa Valley Newspapers

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 country. -ed
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 missing.
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 South Korea.
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 Service."
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.




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