NORWICH, CT, USA U.S. Army 1LT, TROOP B, 2D SQUADRON, 6TH CAVALRY, SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, HI SOUTHWEST OF MUQDADIYAH, IRAQ 05/28/2007
A helicopter crash in Iraq on Memorial Day claimed the life of a Norwich soldier, the governor’s office said May 29.
Army 1st Lieutenant Keith Heidtman, 24, was the 37th military member with Connecticut ties to die since the war began in 2002. Two Connecticut civilians have also been killed. Governor M. Jodi Rell ordered all state and U.S. flags lowered to half staff in Heidtman’s honor.
“Lieutenant Heidtman made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us, and he did so to protect the freedom that we so often take for granted,” Rell said in a statement. “To have given his life on Memorial Day is especially poignant.”
Heidtman was one of 10 U.S. soldiers who died in roadside bombings and the helicopter crash May 28, the military reported, making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq. Heidtman was a 2001 graduate of Norwich Free Academy and a graduate of the University of Connecticut.
His parents were notified May 29. He was the son of Kerry Heidtman and Maureen Robidoux. His stepfather is Art Robidoux. A phone message from The Associated Press was left at his family’s home.
“If you had to pick your son, this is who you would pick. He was handsome, he was bright,” Kerry Heidtman told The Day of New London.
Heidtman arrived in Iraq in December and was scheduled to come home for leave in July.
“In his 24 years, Keith accomplished more, gave more, made a greater impact on our world, than most do in many decades of life,” Connecticut Army National Guard State Chaplain (Lieutenant Col.) Kevin P. Cavanaugh said at the church at his memorial service. “Keith made a difference.”
A solemn ceremony at his grave featured a rifle salute, a flyover by two Connecticut National Guard Blackhawk helicopters and a flag-bearing tribute by dozens of supporters.
Though there were no Westboro protesters at the funeral, a group called the Patriot Guard Riders, members of the Waterford High School Drama Club and several other groups were on hand to support the troops.
John Coffindaffer, president of the Sikorsky Veterans Association, came from Oxford.
“We’re just here to offer our support for the lieutenant and his family,” said Coffindaffer, a retired Air Force helicopter pilot.
Heidtman was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.