HEMLOCK, MI, USA U.S. Army SPC, COMPANY B, 2D BATTALION, 3D INFANTRY, 3 BCT, FORT LEWIS, WA BAGHDAD, IRAQ 07/31/2007
Charles T. Heinlein Jr.’s father, Thomas, said the last time he talked with his son, he offered to send him a care package. His son told him to send it to another soldier who never got care packages. He worried about his comrades first, he said.
Heinlein, 23, of Hemlock, Mich., was killed July 31 by an explosive in Baghdad. He was assigned to Fort Lewis.
His sister, Jody Heinlein, recalled their times together walking to the store and riding their bikes. I was very proud of him, she said. She urged people not to mourn him forever. Remember him. Laugh about him.
For Trisha Hogaboom-Seaver, Charlie was one of her best friends. They used to hang out in his dad’s truck and talk for hours. He was always there for me, she said. Friends remembered Heinlein for his love of games such as Dungeons and Dragons and anime animation. If you needed a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, he’d be there, said Trisha Hogaboom.
Charles Heinlein, who grew up in Hemlock and lived with his wife, Jessica, in Washington state, was one of three soldiers who died Tuesday when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad, the Department of Defense announced this weekend. The 23-year-old Heinlein died along with Specialist Zachariah J. Gonzalez, 23, of Indiana and Private First Class Alfred H. Jairala, 29, of Hialeah, Fla. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash.
He had received the Army Commendation, National Defense Service, Iraq Campaign, and Global War on Terrorism Service medals, and Combat Infantryman Badge. Donna Lynch of Hemlock said her grandson had talked about enlisting, but she didn’t know which branch.
“Then he decided it would be the Army,” Lynch said. “He said it was hard at first, but after he got adjusted Charlie said it would be his career.”
Educators in Merrill and Hemlock remember him as a “decent young man” who wanted to grow up his own way.
“He’s a hero in my eyes today, no matter what,” said Rudy Godefroidt, the Hemlock school superintendent who was the principal at the high school when Charles Heinlein attended. “We had a few discussions when he was a student here — he wasn’t involved in athletics or drama or music or anything like that, but he was always a decent young man. He’s a hero now.”
Thomas Heinlein said he’ll miss the homecoming.
“We had a Christmas vacation planned, a marathon session watching our favorite TV shows, venison chops that he only knew how to cook right; dinner at the Outback restaurant, his favorite place to eat,” he said. “I told him we’d need two leaves for everything he had planned.”
“Charlie would tell you that we needed to be in Iraq,” Heinlein said. “He helped with a school there one time and with a hospital another time. He always talked about the people he met, a lot of good people. You have to realize Charlie didn’t have friends, he considered everyone family.