Brother of Aberdonian Killed in Iraq
"Brother of Aberdonian Killed in Iraq." Aberdeen American News, 23 September 2004.
A former All-American wrestler with Aberdeen ties was killed by a
roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq, military officials said.
Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig, 33, of Fargo, N.D., died shortly after
midnight Wednesday while on patrol with his North Dakota National
Guard outfit near the Iraqi city of Tikrit.
Koenig, a former North Dakota State University athlete, is the
younger brother of Les Koenig, associate pastor of Aberdeen's First
Koenig, 35, said that his brother's wife Angie called him Wednesday
morning to inform him about the tragedy.
He did not want to comment on his brother's death, but said the
family would be issuing a press release in the near future. Les
and Lance grew up in Carrington, N.D., where their parents still
Lance Koenig was assigned to the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion's
Company B, based in Jamestown. The 15-year Guard veteran had been
in Iraq since February.
NDSU wrestling coach Bucky Maughan said former Bison wrestlers
called him from around the country Wednesday after hearing the news.
''Lance was one of the more successful North Dakota wrestlers,''
Maughan said. ''Everybody liked Lance. He was just one of those
nice, easy going guys.''
Koenig finished second in the NCAA Division II national tournament
as a sophomore and sixth as a junior.
Maughan said Koenig joined the National Guard to help pay for college
expenses. The school did not offer full scholarships to wrestlers.
The NDSU coach talked with Koenig while he was home on leave in
''He was all excited that he got to come home,'' Maughan said.
''He said it's the worst place in the world you could be . . . desolate
and hot. He was dreading the thought of going back.''
Koenig is survived by his wife and two daughters, Maughan said.
''He was completely devoted to his family,'' Maughan said. ''Those
two little girls meant the world to him.''
Koenig won the North Central Conference wrestling title as a senior
in 1994, but injured his knee in the semifinals of the national
Joel Vettel, Koenig's teammate at NDSU for five years, said he
spent most of Wednesday afternoon and evening on the phone with
former Bison wrestlers.
''Many of them haven't see Lance for many years, but they wanted
to find out what happened and if they could do anything,'' Vettel
said. ''It speaks volumes about the type of person he was. We have
been doing a lot of reminiscing.''
A former three-sport standout at Carrington High School, Koenig
was probably the best all-around athlete on the NDSU wrestling team,
''He was a very gifted athlete who never took himself real seriously.
That was part of his appeal,'' Vettel said. ''He wasn't very flamboyant
or outgoing. He would rather sit at home and play Nintendo games
than go out.''
Spotted suspicious object: Military officials in Iraq said Wednesday
that Koenig was in a vehicle when he spotted a suspicious object
at the side of the road.
It turned out to be a bomb, which detonated and killed him, said
Maj. Neal O'Brien, spokesman for the Army's 1st Infantry Division.
North Dakota Guard officials said they knew of no other soldiers
with serious injuries in the incident.
Wednesday's death brings to six the number of North Dakota National
Guardsmen killed in Iraq.
About 475 members of the 141st are stationed there. They started
arriving in Kuwait on Feb. 15 and were expected to serve about a
The soldiers are in three primary locations - near Balad and Baqubah,
which are just north of Baghdad, and near Tikrit, the home town
of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Tikrit is about 100 miles
northwest of Baghdad.
Two other members of the unit were killed in May. They were Spc.
Philip Brown, 21, of Jamestown, and Spc. James Holmes, 28, of East
Grand Forks, Minn. About 19 have been wounded.