|Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig|
"Lance Koenig." Associated Press, 27 September 2004.
The Carrington doctor, who returned home from Iraq on Wednesday, was driving to Jamestown for the birth of his fifth child when he got a call saying his best friend had been killed.
A few hours later, Page's wife Kristi gave birth to their son, Luke.
"It turned out to be a hard day to celebrate," Page said. "I never had a friend as close to me as Lance - and I probably never will."
Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig, 33, of Fargo, died early Wednesday when a bomb exploded along a road near Tikrit, Iraq. He was serving with the North Dakota National Guard's 141st Combat Engineer Battalion.
Page, a North Dakota National Guard field physician from Carrington, had been providing medical services for a unit from Washington state in Baghdad. Before he was deployed in June, Page got some advice from Koenig, who had been serving in northern Iraq for several months.
"He kind of laughed and told me to keep my head down," Page said. "None of us were over there to be heroes, and the most important thing was to come home."
Their friendship began in the first grade. Page was the new kid in class, and Koenig volunteered to show him around.
The bond lasted through high school, when the friends stayed at each other's homes several nights a week.
"My father thinks of Lance as a son and is taking it pretty hard that Lance is gone," Page said.
Koenig is survived by his wife, Angie, and their two daughters, Alexandra, 12, and Brooklynn, 2. He often boasted about the girls to Page during the pair's regular hunting and fishing trips.
Koenig also talked about having another child, a son with whom he could share his love of wrestling, Page said.
"Most of the things he did in his life were to better his family," Page said.
The men had not seen each other since Christmas, when Koenig left for the Middle East. Their paths never crossed in Iraq, but they shared e-mails and spoke on the phone regularly.
"Lance is a very quiet, shy person," Page said. "He's somebody who leads by example, not words. Even if he was struggling inside, he wouldn't tell you that."
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Hope Lutheran South Campus Church in Fargo. Funeral services are planned in Carrington, but a date has not been announced.
"He's a hero in everybody's eyes - certainly in Carrington and this state," Page said.