Saturday, April 16, 2011



This phrase came from Sgt. Teri Waggoner of Ankeny, Iowa who is stationed in Afghanistan via a Facebook post Friday morning.  Considering what the "families" of the Iowa National Guard have been going through this past week, those words couldn't have been more appropriate.  

Last July, over 2,800 Iowans and several hundred Nebraskans were deployed to Afghanistan, the largest in Iowa National Guard history since World War II.  The safety of these soldiers has been a thought all have embraced since the day they departed.  It doesn't matter if it's been hopes, dreams, wishes or prayers we've all  been desiring the same thing Sgt. Waggoner mentions, a safe return home for every soldier.  Now, we know that's not possible.

Just last week,  Col. Benjamin Corell suggested, “When you’re in a place like this doing the kinds of things required to be successful,  for my soldiers every day is game day.  One of my biggest concerns is that we become complacent.   By the Grace of God there haven't been any fatalities".   Corell is commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bulls Infantry Division. 

Spc. Brent Maher 

Word came Monday that Spc. Brent Maher, 31, of Honey Creek, Iowa had died.   Maher was killed when his armored truck struck an IED as he stood in a gun turret.  Three other soldiers in the truck were injured. They were identified as Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Jedlicka, 31, of Council Bluffs; Spc. Justin Christiansen, 24, of Nebraska City, Neb.; and Spc. Dustin Morrison, 20, of New Market.  Then Thursday, confirmation came to us that Spc. Don Nichols, 21, of Shell Rock, Iowa had suffered a similar fate from an IED blast. 
Another soldier, Spc. Timothy R. Gourd, 24, of Prescott, Iowa, who was riding with Nichols was injured in the attack.

“When something like this happens, it’s a reminder for other families that it could be any one of us ... getting that call,” said Darci Ritter, Family Readiness Coordinator for the Waterloo-headquartered 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry.  “This is a hard time", Ritter said. “It seems like the walls are tumbling down.”  But there is HOPE.

In Eastern Iowa, a community banded together to help the families of the two fallen soldiers. Folks who've never met either soldier are stepping in to help.  From a KGAN-TV report came this information.  "Volunteers covered a table inside Regina High School in Iowa City with baked goods Friday night. Imagine if every muffin, every cookie on that table were a toothbrush, or a sock. That's basically what the group Iowa Troop Pantry does. Volunteers raise money for basic supplies to send to troops overseas.  But Friday night's fundraiser was even more important because all the money went to the families of two fallen heroes: Specialists Maher and Nichols.

Spc. Don Nichols

"Those guys are our family, our family's hurting," says Mike Tyson, one of the directors of Iowa Troop Pantry.  Two Iowa soldiers killed in one week.  Both leave behind families, children, wives, struggling to cope and a community unsure of how to help".  One community did, though.  Now we need others to follow their lead.

Encouragement is also coming within the ranks of other deployed families.  I'd like to share with you a couple of comments listed on the MFV blog concerning Spc. Nichols.

The first is from Tonya Rosol...."My son, Lt.  Justin Foote was on foot near the vehicle when the IED was detonated.  He is the platoon leader for this scouts/sniper platoon.  We are grieving the loss of Donny and praying for the gunners recovery.  My son escorted Donny's body back to Bagram along with the injured gunner where he will wait for Donny's brother who is in another part of Afghanistan to arrive to take Donny home to his family.  God Speed to the brave men and women.  Life is so fleeting".

And from Mark Johnson...."My son, Spc. Jacob Johnson was 2 trucks behind  Don's.   Jake went through Basic & AIT at Ft. Benning with Don, drills, NTC and the same squad in Afghanistan.  We talked to Jake shortly after the incident and he said he carried Donny to the chopper.   My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family and Chelsey.  I cannot imagine what they are going through and how their lives have changed forever.  God bless them and God rest Donny at peace in Heaven".

And lastly from the parents of Spc. Nichols fiance, Marvin and DeAnn Bliss......."As Chelsey's parents we'd like to extend our thanks to all the 133rd families and friends that have reached out to Chelsey.   She is a strong woman with a strong family and friend base.  We will make it!  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family members of the 133rd and their soldiers on their SAFE RETURN HOME".

I want to thank Tonya, Mark, Marvin and DeAnn.  It had to have been difficult sharing thoughts so soon after this tragic time.  It will be people like these four that help get us through this.  They are part of the "family".  Perhaps now, it's more even understandable.  Family is the most important thing in the world and there is NO PLACE LIKE HOME. 




  1. The Tysons do wonderful work on behalf of the Iowa National Guard soldiers who have been deployed. THey work tirelessly to send care packages to ALL soldiers as well as coordinate the Wreaths Across America (local chapter) effort. Nice article, John.

  2. Yes, the Tyson's should be applauded. What great work for a great cause! May God bless them.

  3. We would like to say thank you for all the thoughts and prayers everyone is sending our way. Don Nichols is my cousin. We would like to send our thoughts and prayers out to the Maher family. This is the worst nightmare that either of our families could ever imagine happening, and it came true. We would also like to send out thoughts and prayers out to the speedy recoveries of Jedlicka, Christiansen, Morrison, and also to Gourd. This is the worst time of our lives right now and we've just got to look forward and take it day by day. We are very happy to have Joe, Donny's big brother, home from Afghanistan. Our entire family has been living at my aunt and uncle's house since Wednesday when we found out. This has been such a bonding exerperience and we are thankful for all we have and that we have Joe home, we just wish we weren't together and Joe wasn't home for this reason.
    To the troops of the 133rd, and all the other soldiers over in Afghanistan, thank you for everything you do for our country and please come home safe. Donny, we love you and will always remember you and what you gave up for this country, we could not be more proud.

  4. We are all honored to have you connect with us during this difficult time. I know I will be at your cousin's funeral....I'd like to encourage others to do the same. My prayer is that you are all overwhelmed with LOVE at this time. Peace be with you all!!!