ROCKFORD, IL, US
SGT,CO B, 5TH BN, 20TH INF, 3 SBCT, FORT LEWIS, WA
07/13/2012, QALAT, AFGHANISTAN
The parents of fallen soldier Sergeant Michael Ristau stated simply that freedom is not free and they accept the cost.
“We don’t feel (our son) he died in vain. We have it very good here because of people like him,” added the soldier’s father, Randy Ristau.
It helps knowing “he died doing something he loved very much,” Suzanne Ristau, Sergeant Ristau’s mother said.
She explained that her son spent just two weeks with his infant son, Hyle, before deploying in late December to Afghanistan. Sergeant Ristau joined the Army in July 2004, after graduating from Lincoln’s Challenge Academy in Rantoul, Illinois. Michael had also served 2 tours of duty in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. The family is putting together a video with photographs of Michael to help his youngest son understand more about his father. Sergeant Ristau is also survived by his wife Elizabeth and another son, Bradley.
The Ristaus said they were grateful for the outpouring of support from family, friends, neighbors and total strangers. They also expressed gratitude to the Iowa Army National Guard, and especially to Sergeant First Class Michael Brecht,their Casualty Assistance Officer and Colonel Greg Hapgood for shepherding them through the difficult days following notification of their son’s death.
“The entire Cascade community came together to make this work,” Bill Donovan of American Legion Post 528 explained. The service for Sergeant Ristau was attended by over 1,000 people. Suzanne Ristau recalled that her son, while on leave in Cascade last fall, wore his Army uniform and accompanied his 8-year-old sister Halie who wore her Girl Scout uniform to sell cookies door to door. “She was so proud,” said Suzanne Ristau.
Sergeant Ristau’s brother, Christopher Powers of Dubuque, paid tribute to him by riding a bull last weekend at a rodeo in Tipton. “He lasted 4.2 seconds and escaped injury. It was his way of honoring his brother, who was passionate about bull riding,” she said.
Sergeant Ristau was born in Manhattan, Kansas where his father was serving in the Army, and grew up in Dubuque and Rockford, Illinois. The family moved to Cascade in 2004, and Michael Ristau always spent his military leave in Cascade, “hanging out with the family, doing whatever we were doing,” his dad explained.
Ristau was devoted to his family. And he “was passionate about his Army mission and his brothers in arms,” Randy Ristau added. Michael was loved by his family, friends and community. He was known to all as someone who would give you “the shirt off his back.” He will be sadly missed, and never forgotten.