Photo: U.S. Army
One of the seven Army values, Selfless Service — doing one’s duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain — was exemplified by Infantryman Dennis P. Weichel Jr.’s final act of valor.
He was killed last week after pulling a little girl from under a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, known as an MRAP, in eastern Afghanistan.
The Army says his unit was leaving the Black Hills Firing Range in Laghman province when they encountered several Afghan children in their convoy’s path.
Soldiers got down to move the children away when Weichel noticed one child try to retrieve an item from underneath a moving MRAP. As he scooped her to safety, he bore the fatal impact of the 16-ton vehicle.
He died after being evacuated from the accident to Jalalabad Medical Treatment Facility.
His mentor and fellow Iraq veteran, Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, said he would have done it for anybody. “That was the way he was…He was that type of guy.”
Corbett continued, “When I first heard, I kept expecting him to jump up and say, ‘Oh, I got you guys.'”
“The last few days have hit me hard.”
The 29-year old Army Specialist was promoted to Sergeant on March 24, four days after his death.
At a Senate hearing last week, Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said as he was walking into the committee he was informed, “One of our troops who, when he saw a small child underneath one of our MRAPs, threw himself underneath” making a courageous sacrifice.
It’s now confirmed that Sgt. Weichel was the Soldier who gave his life that day. He was a father of three, and was engaged to be married.
He was serving with the Rhode Island Army National Guard, and had previously been deployed to Iraq with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment in 2005. He had been in Afghanistan since earlier this month.
The commanding general of the Rhode Island National Guard, Gen. Kevin McBride, said he is pledging the command’s unending support of Sgt. Weichel’s family.
“We leave no Soldier behind, and we will not leave Sergeant Weichel’s family behind.”
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