Kevin S. K. Wessel – Specialist, United States Army

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 389-05
April 21, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  They died April 19, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near their dismounted patrol.  Both Soldiers were assigned 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, and Fort Stewart, Georgia.

The soldiers are:

  • Specialist Jacob M. Pfister, 27, of Buffalo, New York
  • Private First Class Kevin S. K. Wessel, 20, of Newport, Oregon

Iraqi car bomb kills isle-bred soldier
Friends remember Kevin Wessel through his numerous e-mails
By Mary Vorsino
Courtesy of the Honolu Star Bulletin

From the time he enlisted in the Army to days before he died in Baghdad, Private First Class Kevin Wessel sent out nearly 100 e-mail messages to a group of family members and friends.

Most were lighthearted — one told a Honolulu friend to “Reach out and touch a liberal today!”

But a few were somber, touching on the day-to-day reality of a soldier's life: the fire fights, the bomb blasts and the uncertainty.

“My battalion suffered its first loss yesterday. A Specialist from Delta Company,” the 20-year-old wrote to the e-mail group on April 12, a week before his own death. “It's gonna be a hard memorial service.”

Wessel, who grew up on Oahu, died Tuesday in Baghdad when a car bomb detonated near him while he was on foot patrol. Also killed in the attack was Specialist Jacob M. Pfister, 27, of Buffalo, New York.

Wessel attended Nuuanu Elementary and the Assets School, where he graduated. His parents, Paul and Lori Wessel, live in Moiliili.

In late 2003, Kevin Wessel moved from Hawaii to Newport, Oregon, where he tried to get into the Coast Guard.

But when he heard there was a two-year waiting list for entry, he decided to join the volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliary instead. A few months later, he joined the Army.

“He felt he could make a difference,” said LeOra Johnson, the auxiliary's flotilla commander when Wessel was training.

Private First Class Kevin Wessel, holding the weapon, is shown with fellow soldiers in this undated photograph.

Johnson, who was on the e-mail list, said the soldier's almost daily notes on his deployment kept her up to date on Wessel — whom she called the best student in her more than 30 years with the auxiliary.

“Kevin had e-mailed almost daily about things that were going on the front,” she said last night in a telephone interview with the Star-Bulletin. “He talked about what they were doing … and once how their convoy got lost in the desert. That was the Kevin we knew so well.”

Some of the messages Wessel sent out didn't spare the details, describing home raids and close calls.

“We took mortars the other night, two of 'em impacted somewhere near the barracks across from us,” Wessel wrote early in his deployment. “At night, I can see tracers arc across the sky as fire fights erupt as close as 500 meters away. Apaches (helicopters) and Medevacs are constantly flying. Explosions can be heard at all hours of the day, but we've gotten used to 'em.”

And on the three-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Wessel told his e-mail list, “Baghdad fell three years ago today. On that day, I didn't think I'd be here on the three-year anniversary. Thanks to all who made it possible. I'm living my dream.”

Wessel's first note to the group was sent out in June 2004, shortly after his yearlong tour of Iraq started.

His last message was received on April 14.

After his death, Wessel's father sent word out to his friends on the list in a message entitled, “Kevin.”

He told the soldier's friends that he had few details of his son's death, but knew he had wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A flurry of condolences and e-mails remembering Kevin Wessel's life followed, including one from longtime friend Beau Brennan.

“Every day, people have been hearing the grave news of loved ones lost, and everyday people are reminded of what really is important in life,” Brennan, of Oregon, wrote. “I know I am not alone in saying that there is no better friend I have ever had then Kevin, who made us realize all of these things before and after he gave his life for us.”

In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski asked yesterday that flags fly at half-staff Monday in honor of Wessel, whose services are pending.

Wessel and Pfister, the other soldier killed in the attack, were both assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

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