FREDERICKSBURG, TX, USA U.S. Army 1LT, TROOP A, 3D SQUADRON, 8TH CAVALRY, FORT HOOD, TX BALAD, IRAQ 04/08/2007
Fredericksburg lost one of its own to the fighting in Iraq very early Sunday morning when 1LT Phillip Isaac Neel died of wounds suffered during an engagement with enemy forces north of Baghdad. The second-oldest of Fredericksburg residents Colonel Leroy (Lee) and Kathy Neel’s six children, the 27-year-old U.S. Army infantry officer was killed near Balad in the Diyala Province.
A Department of Defense statement issued Monday said Neel died of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using grenades.
Later, in a phone call here Tuesday afternoon, Neel’s family learned from his battalion commander in Iraq that the young platoon leader had sustained a serious leg wound about 10 minutes after midnight Easter Sunday but continued to give orders for his men to return fire from where he’d fallen. He was eventually airlifted from the scene by a medical evacuation helicopter but reportedly died a short time later around 2 a.m.
A 1998 Fredericksburg High School graduate, Neel had been serving in Iraq since October 2006 with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division out of Ft. Hood.
With services for Neel still pending, hopes are to have his body interred sometime next week in the U.S. Military Academy Cemetery at West Point, NY.
“Phillip was an inspiration and leader to his five siblings,” his family said in a prepared statement issued late yesterday afternoon. “He led by example and consistently challenged them to do the right thing in all circumstances, no matter what pressures were involved.”
“He was a blessing to his parents and honored them by his compassion, his commitment to serving the Lord, his bravery and his selflessness,” the statement continued. “He cared deeply for his soldiers and died as he lived in putting others’ needs before his own. Phillip loved his family and his soldiers, and he felt it an honor to serve his country.”
The family statement concluded by noting, “He prayed for his enemies; he loved his God. We will miss him terribly, but he has left us with many wonderful memories and an unforgettable example of excellence.”
Neel had recently returned home to Fredericksburg while on a two-week leave from his duty station at Baquba, Iraq, to join his brothers and sisters in a surprise spring break visit for their parents who have lived in Fredericksburg since moving here in 1996 from Ft. Leavenworth, KS, after his father retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army.
Prior to being shipped to Iraq, Neel had joined the Army as an enlisted man following his May 2005 graduation from FHS. But he then decided to begin the process to become a commissioned officer by studying for a year at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School at West Point. From there, he continued on over the next four years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he graduated as a second lieutenant in May 2005.
In Fredericksburg, the Elder Board of Fredericksburg Bible Church where Neel was a member as a youth has established The Phillip Neel Memorial Fund in his honor.