Wilson Andrew Algrim – Specialist, United States Army

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
December 27, 2006

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.They died December 23, 2006, in Salman Pak, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations.They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry, Big Rapids, Michigan.

Killed were:

Specialist Chad J. Vollmer, 24, of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Private First Class Wilson A. Algrim, 21, of Howell, Michigan
Private Bobby Mejia II, Saginaw, Michigan

The 125th Infantry was moving through Salman Pak, Iraq, when, all of a sudden, its soldiers noticed two Iraqi police vehicles they were traveling with had disappeared.

Immediately, mortars started raining from the sky and Army Staff Sergeant Jack Vliet and others went into nearby vehicles for cover. But Vliet said Specialist Wilson Algrim stayed at his post, telling his fellow soldiers where the rounds were landing.

It was that kind of courage and devotion that set Algrim apart, Vliet said at the fallen soldier's funeral Saturday at the Howell Nazarene Church.

“Obviously, he was one of a kind,” said Vliet, Algrim's squad leader. “He was one of the top soldiers I ever served with.”

Algrim died December 23, 2006, from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device went off near the Marion Township man's vehicle during combat operations. Two other men with him were also killed; all three were assigned to the Michigan Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry from Big Rapids.

Family and friends remembered the 21-year-old as a quiet, likable guy who was able to overcome several obstacles and mold himself into a strong young man during his time spent in the armed forces.

About 200 people showed up for the service, including former Army buddies; U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton; and other well-wishers. Algrim is at least the ninth soldier with Livingston County ties to die in Iraq, and his funeral comes just a week after one held for Brighton Township Army Specialist Andrew Daul.

“This proves to me this is the next great generation,” Rogers said. “I call it the ‘9/11 generation,' because they're volunteering during war.”

The somber service featured a 21-gun salute, the ceremonial playing of “Taps,” and the presentation of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star to Algrim's parents. Members of the Patriot Guard stood outside the church, holding U.S. flags. The soldier is to buried this week at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Algrim was born in Antioquia, Columbia. When he was 8 years old, he and his two sisters, Janét and Lisa, and one brother, Jason, were adopted by Don and Judy Algrim.

Judy Algrim had lived in Columbia when she taught at the University of the Andes, located in Bogota, Columbia.

Wilson Algrim attended Howell Public Schools for a short time, but since he had never gone to school in Columbia, he was far behind his classmates.

Consequently, he was sent to Michigan Youth Challenge Academy at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, near Battle Creek. The program gives students a lot of help with tutoring and vocational education.

Wilson Algrim graduated from that program in 2004 and eventually became part of the Michigan Army National Guard.

The family's pastor, the Rev. Mark Franck of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Howell Township — the service was held at Howell Nazarene Church to accommodate a large crowd — said Wilson Algrim was able to overcome his struggles.

“When he locked in, he could accomplish anything,” Franck said.

Wilson Algrim's family was smiling after the service, reflecting on the fun times spent with the soldier.

Judy Algrim remembers, after much searching, acquiring a Spanish version of the movie “Toy Story” when Wilson Algrim was a child. The thing was, the Algrims also had the English version, too.

“He put in the Spanish (version) and said ‘There's something wrong, it's in Spanish,' ” she said, adding he then started looking for loose wires, thinking the TV was on the fritz.

Lisa Algrim, 15, said she'll never forget playing basketball and swimming with him. Janét and Wilson Algrim enjoyed going to the movies often, and Jason and his brother used to pretend they were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Don had some parting words for his son.

“We're proud of him and we love him,” he said after the service. “He was a great hero.”

Staff Sertgeant Jack Vliet, leader of the squad Army Specialist Wilson Algrim served in with the Michigan Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry from Big Rapids, salutes the fallen soldier in Saturday's services at Howell Nazarene Church
Major General Thomas G. Cutler, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, presents the U.S. flag that had covered the casket of Wilson Algrim to the soldier's family at services Saturday at Howell Nazarene Church
Pall bearers carry Wilson Algrim from the Howell Nazarene Church to the hearse after services Saturday

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A 21-year-old soldier from Livingston County was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, given for bravery or acts or meritorious service, and the Purple Heart during his funeral Saturday in Howell, Michigan.

About 250 family members, friends and military officers attended funeral services for Army National Guard Specialist Wilson Andrew Algrim, who was killed on December 23, 2006, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while on combat duty in Salmon Pak, near Baghdad.


Algrim will be buried Wednesday with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

Algrim was a native of Colombia who came to the United States 13 years ago when he, a brother and two sisters were adopted by Don and Judy Algrim of Marion Township. The children had lived on the streets for a time in Colombia.

The Rev. Mark Franck, pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Howell, who conducted the service at the Howell Church of the Nazarene because of its larger capacity, said life wasn't a bed of roses for Algrim. He said Algrim came as a boy to the U.S. with a lot of issues because of a difficult early childhood in Colombia.

“You have some scars you carry with you in that new setting, there can be some difficulties,” Franck said. But he said Algrim's heart was in the right place. “There was a life and a love for people,” he said. “(Wilson) could be a man on a mission; there was no stopping him.”

The eulogy was given by Sergeant Jack Vliet, Algrim's squad leader, who found it hard to hold back tears as he recounted Algrim's loyal service.

Also giving words of praise for Algrim's service, after the funeral, was Major Greg Durkae, 125th Infantry battalion commander. “He was very dedicated to what he did, he was a hero.”

After the ceremony, Judy Algrim related how her son used to watch over his little sister, Lisa, like a mother hen – both in Colombia, where they lived on the streets, and later in the U.S. after their adoption. He used to carry Lisa on his shoulders, his mother said, and the two siblings had the tightest bond of the four children, who are biological siblings.

Donald Algrim said his son overcame a lot. “He was really motivated to go to Iraq. He wanted to serve his country. He wanted to be an American.”

Lisa Algrim, 15, used to walk around the house wearing her older brother's clothing, and now has several of his possessions. “I have his uniform, his boots, his graduation suit,” she said. “I'm really proud of him.”

According to the family, Wilson Algrim was a quiet, protective, loyal brother. Younger brother Jason related fond memories, such as playing basketball with his older brother, who also played soccer and ran track. “I admired him a lot,” said Jason, 17, a Howell High School junior.

“It was beautiful, very touching,” Judy Algrim said of the service.

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