Died November 15, 2003 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom
21, of Amherst, Wis.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 15 when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.
Community gathers to remember latest casualty of war
AMHERST, Wis. — The community gathered to mourn the death of a young soldier who died in the crash of two Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq. Flags flew at half-staff outside Amherst High School, Staff Sgt. Eugene Uhl III’s alma mater, where a community memorial service was held Nov. 25 in the gym. A funeral was planned for the following day. “What we honor here today is a young man who took a different direction,” Chaplain Daniel Farley told a crowd of about 450 who gathered to remember the 21-year-old Uhl. He died Nov. 15 in Mosul, Iraq, in a crash that killed 17 soldiers. “He knew the risks, but he also knew it was a wonderful opportunity to make a difference,” said Farley, a captain who served as Uhl’s chaplain with the Wisconsin National Guard in Stevens Point. Uhl’s parents, Eugene Jr. and Joan Uhl, stood with his sisters and other relatives in front of a flag-draped casket. A portrait of Uhl sat on a nearby easel, and slides of his life flashed on a screen. Capt. Brian Leahy recalled hearing Uhl tell stories about his grandfather, the late Eugene “Bud” Uhl, who served in the same National Guard unit and was a decorated World War II combat veteran.
Leahy said Uhl left for active duty in July 2002, despite the uncertain times, because of his love for the country. “The simple fact that you wear the uniform puts you in harm’s way,” he added. National Guard soldiers in olive green dotted the crowd. Sgt. 1st Class Paul Peplinski said many of the younger unit members were good friends with Uhl. Amherst principal Pete Sippel said a somber mood hung over the school throughout the week as students were reminded of the sacrifices of others. Wisconsin soldier mourned at funeral Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Eugene A. Uhl III, killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Iraq. Gov. Jim Doyle, attending the services at Amherst High School, said people throughout the state shared in the loss. Uhl would have turned 22 on Thanksgiving. “We are understanding what we have to be thankful for and finding inspiration in the life of a 21-year-old man,” Doyle said. “It demonstrates to us what it means to live in a free country and the sacrifice it takes.” The Bronze Star and Purple Heart were posthumously awarded to Uhl and presented to his parents by Gen. Nathaniel Thompson, representing the Army chief of staff at the funeral. Uhl served with the Army’s 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment of the Division Artillery Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. Uhl wrote in a letter to his father that he had seen some horrible things in Iraq, said Capt. Daniel Farley, the chaplain who co-presided at the funeral with the Rev. Robert Pedretti of St. James Catholic Church in Amherst. “But he knew he had to be there,” Farley said. “There is ongoing praise of him that he was a man filled with life and enjoyed sharing that life. … Eugene said, ‘I want to make a difference.’ He knew what his choice involved, and he knew it might involve going to Iraq.” More than 600 relatives, friends and others attended the service in the high school gymnasium. Many went by bus afterward to Greenwood Cemetery in Amherst, where Uhl was buried with full military honors. Students from the Tomorrow River School District were allowed to be released from classes with a note from their parents to attend the funeral, said Principal Pete Sippel. “It’s an opportunity for them to see the show of respect for Eugene,” Sippel said. Uhl was a 2000 graduate of Amherst High School and president of the Student Council.
— Associated Press