03 February 2007

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Cpl Stephen D. Shannon

From a friend of Soldiers' Angels Germany who is also a friend of Cpl Shannon's family:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Stephen D. Shannon, 21, of Guttenberg, Iowa, died Jan. 31, in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by a rocket during combat operations Jan. 30 in Ramadi, Iraq.

Shannon was assigned to the 397th Engineer Battalion, Wausau, Wis.

Stephen was unique, "one of a kind" from the first day of his life, his mother Joan Shannon said Friday. He was "by no means a saint, but definitely a hero."

On Friday, his family, including his mother, father and three siblings, gathered at the family's rural Guttenberg home for a press conference to talk about his life.

During his last trip home before deploying in September he spent four days in Guttenberg, but they went by fast, Joan Shannon said.

"He was hardly ever at home, because he was out with his many friends all the time," she said.

Stephen was a popular student at Clayton Ridge High School in Guttenberg, where he graduated in 2003. He served as president of his junior class, was a member of the football and wrestling teams, and played in the school band. After graduation, he attended the University of Northern Iowa where he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and majored in criminology.

Word of the young soldier’s death has stunned residents of Guttenberg, a community of about 2,000 on the Mississippi River, just across the border from Wisconsin. The students and staff at the high school were so upset after hearing the news that plans for students to take basic academic skills tests were delayed.

James Whalen, the principal at Clayton Ridge High School and the next-door neighbor of Shannon’s family, said the young man’s death is a big loss for Guttenberg.

“He was like a Norman Rockwell painting of an All-American boy,” Whalen said. “He was honest, clean-cut, polite and courteous. He never got in trouble. Everybody would have liked to have had him as their son.”

Stephen's sister, Kathleen Shannon, 19, recently joined the Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps. She wants to become an army nurse, and said she is proud of her brother.

"I saw what he had become. I also wanted him to have to salute me when I became an officer," she said.

Shannon's body is expected to return to Guttenberg next week, and the family plans to have a viewing and funeral Mass. Joan Shannon said the public will be welcome.

"This kid was pretty special," she said. "If this is his 15 minutes of fame and people want to be a part of it, I have no restrictions."

Sources: The DesMoines Register, Examiner

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for Cpl Shannon.

Update: Teflon Don of Acute Politics (deployed in the same Task Force at Camp Ramadi) has written a poem in Stephen's memory here.

Remember our Heroes.

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