CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Soldiers with a Minnesota Army National Guard unit took time to remember three fallen brothers at a prayer service here Dec. 9.
Army Sergeants Corey J. Rystad, 20, of Red Lake Falls, Minn., and Bryan T. McDonough, 22, of Maplewood, Minn., gave their lives on a security patrol near Fallujah when an improvised explosive device blast struck their vehicle Dec. 2.
Both soldiers served with Company B, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, attached to I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group. The explosion wounded two other passengers.
Two days later, Army Sgt. Nicholas D. Turcotte, 23, from Maple Grove, Minn., died after suffering injuries from a vehicle accident near Nasiriyah. Turcotte was deployed with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment.
“It has been a tough week for our brigade,” said Army 1st Lt. Steven W. Timm, chaplain for 2-136. He addressed the somber audience: “I thank you for being here, and I thank you for showing your honor to all three of these men.”
Marines and sailors also attended the ceremony, and approximately 70 service members learned of Rystad and McDonough’s differences.
“If you knew Sergeant McDonough, you know that he was an extrovert… a worldly ball of energy from the metro area of Minnesota,” said Army Lt. Col. Gregg L. Parks, battalion commander for 2-136.
“Being an infantry soldier, (Rystad) let his actions speak for him… He was content letting guys like McDonough grab all the attention,” said Parks. “Rystad was usually the guy listening to and laughing heartily at jokes, rather than telling them.”
They contrasted in looks and personality, but the commander also spoke of the soldiers’ common bond.
“Both of them told their families on many occasions that at this moment in their lives there is no place in the world they’d rather be than in Iraq with the other members of their squad,” said Parks, a native of Walker, Minn.
“If you’re not in the military, you’ll never understand the mindset of these individuals when they said that,” he added.
Parks stepped down from the podium and the chaplain invited Army Staff Sgt. Jason M. Leonard, a friend and peer of McDonough, to share his memories of the “D-troupe” alum.
“Most of you may have not known (McDonough) like we did,” said Leonard, a team leader with Headquarters Company, 2-136.
Leonard’s voice cracked and he paused to regain composure, something he did several times over the next few minutes.
“He was scrappy. I remember numerous occasions he’d come into drill with a black eye or bloody knuckles,” continued Leonard, a 30-year-old from Brooklyn Center, Minn. “Most of the time he was sticking up for somebody in those little scraps.”
“Sergeant McDonough strived to do the right thing, take care of his soldiers and very rarely complained about anything,” said Leonard. “He was a true soldier.”
Timm, a 33-year-old from Red Wing, Minn., offered words of consolation after Leonard spoke. He said that grieving is important, and the natural reaction is to ask why it happened, but service members must continue to move forward.
“We grieve but we do not grieve as those who have no hope; we do not allow it to overcome us,” said Timm. “We move forward, and we carry their memories with us to honor them, and we allow them to inspire us to do what we need to do.”
An official memorial was held a few days earlier at Camp Fallujah, but one soldier said that having another ceremony here was important.
“It brought closure to a lot of people who weren’t able to go to Fallujah,” said Army Sgt. Corry J. Condon, a chaplains assistant with 2-136.
Condon, a 34-year-old from Marshall, Minn., said he has his own method for dealing with a personal tragedy.
“I just give it to God,” said Condon. “I’m praying that He will be the comforter to the family, friends and the soldiers left behind.”
All three soldiers received posthumous promotions, as well as Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.