MITCHELL, SD, USA U.S. Army SSG, BATTERY C, 1ST BATTALION, 147TH FIELD ARTILLERY, YANKTON, SD BAGHDAD, IRAQ 05/08/2006
Army Staff Sergeant (SSG) Gregory Wagner of Mitchell, South Dakota, died on May 8, 2006, at the age of 35 after his vehicle was hit by a projectile in Baghdad, Iraq. Greg was a team leader for an Army National Guard unit serving a one-year tour in Iraq, with a mission to train and evaluate the Iraqi police force in one of the city’s police districts. The unit mobilized in July 2005 and deployed to the Middle East in October 2005.
Greg was a life-long resident of South Dakota. He was born in Mitchell on November 26, 1970, to Charles “Chuck” and Velma “Blondie” Wagner. He was the youngest sibling of a family of four brothers (Dan, Lenny, Steve, Kenny) and two sisters (Joni, Carol). He graduated from Hanson High School in 1989, and graduated from Mount Marty College in Yankton in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
Greg entered America’s oldest military branch?the National Guard?out of high school. The members of the National Guard became an extended family and he enjoyed the military discipline. Ultimately, he followed in his father’s footsteps and achieved the non-commissioner officer’s rank of Staff Sergeant. He was an active member of the American Legion.
His friends remember him as patriotic and a true American soldier: “he was a soldier at heart. It’s what he believed in. He was a soldier, day in and day out.” His sense of duty was apparent in his high school years and matured over time. By the age of 20, Greg knew people serving in the Gulf War. He had Psalm 23 displayed in a prominent place, so he would always think of his friends who could be killed:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
But his family and friends also recall an individual who had a fine sense of humor, loved football (the Hanson Beavers, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and the Minnesota Vikings), and had a passion for cars, especially his Chevrolet Monte Carlo. “He was a great person to be around. He was one of those kind of guys who never seemed to be in a bad mood. He was a wonderful person to work with, as a result of that,” said Sgt. Shane Toupal.