Luke James Zimmerman – Sergeant, United States Marine Corps


NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
October 30, 2006

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sergeant Luke J. Zimmerman, 24, of Luxemburg, Wisconsin, died October 27, 2006, from injuries suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

A man friends say was on his first tour of duty in Iraq, dies while fighting in the war.

Family and friends of Luke Zimmerman learned Friday that he was killed.


The Department of Defense has not confirmed the death yet.

At the home of Luke Zimmerman’s family Sunday an American flag and Marine Corps flag fly proudly in the front yard, and a blue star flag hangs in the front window.

A man who identified himself as a veteran could only say Luke had done a great service, and would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Zimmerman was a close family friend of Stephen Metzler, and he worked for years at Metzler’s Julie’s Café restaurant in Green Bay.

Metzler said “I’m going to miss his smile, I’m going to miss his voice. I’m going to miss everything about him. I wish he could come back, I still hope in my heart this is some kind of mistake and he’s still alive.”

Zimmerman was a member of a state championship wrestling team at Luxemburg-Casco High School, where he also ran cross country.

A teammate tells us you’ll never meet a nicer guy, a man who always had a smile on his face, even during his current tour of duty.

Metzler said “My son had talked to him on Tuesday before this happened and he said he was getting some of the bad guys off the street. He didn’t love it in Iraq but he said it was tolerable, and he was enjoying what he was doing as far as helping out the country.”

In 2004 Corporal Jesse Thiry died in Iraq, making Zimmerman the second Marine and second Luxemburg-Casco graduate to be killed in the war.

29 October 2006:

Luke Zimmerman couldn’t attend the wedding of his good friend Troy Metzler because he was in Iraq, so Zimmerman did the next best thing.

He wrote Metzler a letter telling him how much their friendship, which began when they were eighth-grade wrestling partners, meant to him, and how much he wished he could be in Green Bay for the wedding celebration.

Zimmerman’s letter was sent in lieu of a wedding present. It was read at Metzler’s Aug. 5 nuptials.

“That was all the gift that I needed,” said Metzler.

Though they corresponded frequently via e-mail, the buddies spoke last week for the first time since Metzler got married. Zimmerman wanted details of the wedding. Three days later, Metzler got another call.

It was Zimmerman’s mother. Claire Dombrowski said her son had been killed in Iraq.

Zimmerman, 24, had shipped out last summer for Iraq after signing up for another hitch in the Marines. The 2000 Luxemburg-Casco High School graduate was good friends with Jesse Thiry; the two were in the same graduating class and joined the Marines about the same time. Thiry, 23, was killed in Fallujah in April 2004.

Now Zimmerman’s name is on the list of 62 military members from Wisconsin who have died in Iraq. The Department of Defense had not released details Sunday on the circumstances of Zimmerman’s death on Friday.

For Randy Thiry, Zimmerman’s death is just as painful as the news of his son’s death, because the two young men were very close.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” said Thiry, whose son is buried next to St. Peter’s Catholic Church in the unincorporated community of Lincoln, not far from where he and Zimmerman grew up.

On Sunday, Zimmerman’s family declined to comment. A man who answered the phone at his family’s Town of Green Bay home said Zimmerman would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“We won’t hold him higher than the next Marine – his exemplary service speaks for itself,” he said.

Zimmerman ran cross country and track and wrestled in high school. He and Metzler were the same weight in eighth grade, so they were paired up as training partners. He ended up wrestling on Luxemburg-Casco’s varsity for two years, finishing his career at 145 pounds.

Zimmerman used the last 15 minutes on his phone card Tuesday to call Metzler. They talked about the wedding – “He was bummed he missed it” – what was happening back home in Wisconsin and what he was doing in Iraq.

Steve Metzler, Troy’s father, hired Zimmerman to work at his wife’s restaurant, Julie’s Café in Green Bay.

“He started out as a dishwasher, but we found out what a great people person he was and how much everyone liked him, so we put him out front as a cashier,” said Steve Metzler, who planned to put a memorial to Zimmerman on the restaurant’s marquee sign.

Zimmerman worked at the café for four years, where he was known for being a hard worker with a perpetual smile on his face and who never missed a day of work.

Joining the Marines was a goal ever since he was an eighth-grader. During boot camp he often finished at the front of the pack during training runs because he was such a fast runner. His Marine unit served overseas, including a stint in Japan, but had not been called to Iraq until this year.

Steve Metzler saw Zimmerman when he was home on leave before heading to Iraq.

“He was a little bit nervous about it, but then on the other hand he felt that he had been well trained. He wanted to serve the country and help as much as he could and get some of those bad guys off the street, and that’s what he was doing,” Steve Metzler said.

“He had just called my oldest son on Tuesday and talked with him. Luke told him how he was arresting people, and he felt good about that. They were driving around looking for roadside bombs.”

Sgt. Luke J. Zimmerman, Luxemburg, was killed on Friday, Oct. 27, 2006, in Iraq. Luke was born May 28, 1982, in Green Bay, to Wesley Zimmerman and Claire (Denissen) Dombrowski. He was a graduate of Luxemburg-Casco High School, Class of 2000.

Luke is survived by his mother, Claire (Denissen) and Richard B. Dombrowski Jr., who filled the role of his absent biological father and treated Luke as his own child since Luke was in the third grade. He is further survived by his brother, Leonardo C. Zimmerman, Green Bay; and his two stepsisters, Brooke M. Dombrowski, Green Bay; and Toni L. Dombrowski, Little Suamico.

Also surviving are maternal grandfather, Alfred Denissen, Green Bay; uncles and aunts, Michael and Rose Denissen, Robert and Christine Belport, Green Bay; Scott and Linda Denissen, Kentucky; Dean and Julie Hoegger, Sturgeon Bay; Kurt and Monica Denissen, Milwaukee; Donald and Katherine Brosig, Green Bay; loving cousins, and stepgrandmother, Rosemary Gagnon, Green Bay.

He was preceded in death by his maternal grandmother, Mary Denissen, and paternal grandmother, Patricia Zimmerman.

Luke loved his family and was immensely proud of being in the U.S. Marine Corps. He always was so full of energy and pep, so kind and willing to help, share, and just goof off. He enjoyed his time just being Luke, from his video games, to his little corny trinkets, to all his activities outside the home.

He lettered in wrestling, track and cross country. Going to team state with his wrestling pals and also medaling in track at La Crosse with his exceptional relay teams. He also gave football a shot in his underclassman year and completed the season dutifully because quitting mid-season was not an accepted option (even though it wasn’t his forte).

Luke worked tirelessly at Julie’s Cafe all the while engaged in a full slate of extra-curricular sports. He never complained and rarely, if ever, missed his work assignment.

Luke was so committed to the Marine Corps that he made his mind up in the seventh grade. He joined the program for early enlistment and left almost immediately after graduation. He re-enlisted after his first four-year tour. He enjoyed his job at the U.S. Embassy in Austria. He then had 18 months left to serve while stationed at Quantico, Va., but wasn’t able to accept other Marines doing what he felt Marines were supposed to do. So he selflessly volunteered to join the unit that was going to be deployed to Iraq. Luke enlisted in the infantry and expected to be a warrior, and wanted to live up to the standards of a man and a Marine. We believe he achieved those milestones. Luke was passionately known as “the mule” by his Marine comrades, and those who personally knew him can relate to that. Luke and his family kept all service members, and especially U.S. Marines, as equals. No one Marine was esteemed over another (maybe Chesty).

Luke was so proud to have received his Combat Action Ribbon and his Iraqi Campaign Service Medal. In addition to being decorated with a Purple Heart, Luke’s service ribbons included the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one star in lieu of a second award, War on Terrorism Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Navy/Marine Corps and the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three Bronze Star Devices and the National Defense Service Medal.

Luke’s parents and brother were blessed by the Lord to have him for 24-plus years. When notified, one of his mother’s biggest worries was if other Marines got injured. Luke’s parents would like to attempt to thank Steve and Julie Metzler and their sons, Scott, Troy, Greg and Eric for almost unofficially “adopting” Luke. They spent countless times with their buddy and co-worker. Luke loved, “The Metzlers” and the feeling was unequivocally reciprocal.

Special thanks also to Captain T.M. Mitchell, U.S.M.C. and Corporal Stigsell for doing an exceptional job in assisting Luke’s mom with what the Marines do best — taking care of their own. Semper Fidelis. Pastor William Kamke and the parishioners of the Robinsonville Presbyterian Church of New Franken have been so kind, compassionate and accommodating.

Friends may call at Proko-Wall Funeral Home, 1630 E. Mason St., on Friday from 3 to 8 p.m. Visitation will continue on Saturday at Robinsonville Presbyterian Church, corner of Doris Road and County Road K, from 9 a.m. until the time of service. Funeral service 10:30 a.m. at the church with Pastor William Kamke officiating. Fittingly, Sergeant ZIMMERMAN, Luke J., U.S.M.C. will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, marking the last chapter in a noble young man’s life. Affirmative, over and out.

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, a memorial fund has been established in Luke’s name. Please direct your donations to the Luke Zimmerman Scholarship fund, Bank of Luxemburg, Box 440 Luxemburg, WI 54217.

Online condolences may be sent to Luke’s family at

Marine Sergeant Luke Zimmerman of Luxemburg, who was killed last week in Iraq, will be the first Wisconsin resident killed in Iraq or Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

He will be buried at the cemetery in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

A funeral was held Saturday for him in New Franken.

Most Wisconsin residents killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been buried in private cemeteries close to their homes. That’s according to Andy Schuster, spokesman for the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Schuster says no matter where they are buried, all military personnel killed in the line of duty are eligible for military burial honors.

Marine Sergeant Luke Zimmerman of Luxemberg was the 66th resident of Wisconsin to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but he will be the first buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Zimmerman, 24, was killed October 27, 2006, in Iraq in combat operations that the Pentagon won’t specify. Funeral services will be held today in Green Bay. He will be buried Wednesday in Arlington.

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is considered the nation’s premier military cemetery among the 122 operated by the federal government. It averages 20 burials daily of military personnel who die on active duty or retirees who saw active duty.

Also eligible for burial there are presidents, members of Congress and justices of the Supreme Court.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Johnson, originally from Port Edwards, was killed in the Pentagon in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and was buried at Arlington.

Most Wisconsin residents killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been buried in private cemeteries close to their homes, said Andy Schuster, spokesman for the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Only six have been buried at national cemeteries.

Six others are buried at state-maintained veterans cemeteries.

Regardless of where they are buried, all military personnel killed in the line of duty are eligible for military burial honors, Schuster noted.

Fate Brings Family, Soldier Together in Arlington National Cemetery

28 October 2009
Fate at Arlington National Cemetery
By Chris Hrapsky

Among the hundreds of thousands of heroes in Arlington National Cemetery is Luxemburg Marine Sergeant Luke James Zimmerman.

Tuesday, his grave was at the center of a string of improbable coincidences.

It all starts with a man from Northeast Wisconsin — 93-year-old World War II veteran Al Denissen. He was a cook who served in the South Pacific during the war.

“It was all bread all the time,” he says.

His service brought him to Washington, D.C., on an Honor Flight with fellow veterans from the Great War. But it’s another soldier’s service that brought him to Arlington to pay his respects.

“You can’t imagine, there’s so many here. I don’t think I could do this every day. It gets too emotional after a while.”

There are roughly 320,000 headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. One of those headstones belongs to Al’s grandson who was killed in Iraq three years earlier — to the day.

With the cemetery set to close in 20 minutes, Al, his son Kurt, and a few other vets started the journey to find his grandson, Sergeant Luke Zimmerman.

After a cold mile-and-a-half walk, they saw it for the first time.

“They find it?” Al asks.

“There’s our man. There’s our boy,” says Kurt, who is Luke’s uncle.

“God bless you,” says Al.

By sheer chance, Al and Kurt bumped into another man who also came to pay his respects to Luke on this anniversary.

It turns out he’s a close friend who was patrolling next to Zimmerman the day he was killed in Iraq.

“We stopped and I turned and saw two guys down the road, picked up my rifle, and looked through the ACOG. Then Luke turned and it happened,” the soldier recalled.

The soldier wished not to be shown, but he told Al and Kurt he’s been waiting three years to decide if he was going to contact Zimmerman’s family.

It appears fate answered that question.

Exchanging stories, the soldier said Sergeant Zimmerman saved his life that day.

“Happens to the best of them, don’t it?” Al asked.

“He was the best,” Kurt answered.

They all came to pay their respects and ended up finding some closure for a soldier who died too soon.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/28/1982
  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/27/2006



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