Honoring our local fallen heroes

WAHPETON, N.D. (Valley News Live)-- Three men paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving overseas. A Navy Captain visited Wahpeton to ensure these heroes are never forgotten.

David Kuehl joined the army right out of high school in 1999. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis, Washington.

He was on his third Iraqi tour when a roadside bomb exploded near his unit. Kuehl was just 27 years old.

"It makes me very happy that he's still being remembered," daughter Kiley Kuehl says. "I'ts been almost 13 years and that's a long time. You would think they would forget about him. But, they don't. It makes me really happy."

Kuehl paid the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for our country. Kuehl was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal. He was honored along with soldiers Christopher Kleinwachter and Kennan Cooper.

Kleinwachter enlisted in the North Dakota Army National Guard as a senior at Grand Forks Central High School. After graduating in 1995, he reported to basic training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In December of 2005, Kleinwachter was mobilized with the 1-188th ADA SECFOR where he deployed with 152 soldiers to Afghanistan. The unit provided around-the-clock security in support of U.S. Armed Forces.

Kleinwachter was killed in action in eastern Afghanistan in 2006. He was 29 years old.

Cooper was the oldest of five children. He moved to Wahpeton in 1993. Throughout high school, he was active in FFA and an honor student.

He enjoyed since, war novels and cars. Faith was also an important part of his life.

Cooper was also killed in Afghanistan. He was 19 years old.

Navy Captain Duane Sand dedicated a battlefield cross to Wahpeton in remembrance of these three heroes.

The memorial honors U.S. Military who lost their lives in the global war on terrorism.

So far, there are five battlefield crosses in the state. Sand says someday he hopes to see them in every North Dakota town.

The helmet symbolizes the fallen. The inverted weapon, a time for prayer. And the boots, the final march of the last battle.