PESHTIGO, WI, USA U.S. Army PFC, COMPANY D, 2D BATTALION, 12TH INFANTRY REGIMENT, 4 BCT, FORT CARSON, CO LANDSTUHL, GERMANY 06/28/2009
Private Steven T. Drees, of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, died Sunday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in Germany. He was injured Wednesday in Konar Province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson. The unit deployed in late May and was patrolling in the Khyber Pass, the mountain pass that links Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Drees joined the Army in August 2008 and was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in December. Drees’ unit suffered heavy casualties in Iraq when it was the 2nd Infantry Divisions’ 2nd Brigade Combat Team, losing 113 soldiers.
Friends and well-wishers carrying candles and waving flags lined the streets of Peshtigo Monday night to honor a 19-year-old soldier who died Sunday as a result of injuries he sustained in Afghanistan.
His parents, Dawn Bayer and Paul Drees, and his twin brother, Charlie, were present when Drees died Sunday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, Barb Bayer said. He had been kept alive until his organs could be harvested for donation, and family members learned this weekend that Drees’ organs may have saved the lives of three people, Bayer said.
Drees’ parents and brother arrived in Peshtigo about 9:30 p.m. Monday. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the home at 281 S. Peck Ave. and along the street to welcome them. Candles on the street and a police escort guided the family to their flag-covered yard.
High school friends of Drees said they spent the past four days preparing for the memorial. “We wanted it to be happy,” said James Meeks, 17, a high school friend. “Before Steve left, he told everyone that if anything happened to him he wanted them to be proud, not sad.”
The mourners seemed to express their reactions in different tones. Some joked about past memories, others expressed anger toward the insurgency, and some just wept.
Bayer is Drees’ mother’s cousin, but she was always “Auntie Barb” to Drees, she said. She described Steven as a playful young man – “a child at heart” – who loved children. As a boy, he played baseball, and he lettered in both football and basketball in high school, she said.
Drees’ high school friends all solicited area businesses for donations for the candles and flags used in Monday night’s event, Bayer said.
“The kids have been wonderful,” she said. “Some of the family members wouldn’t have made it through without the kids here supporting them.”
The kids were planning to have T-shirts and rubber bracelets made in Drees’ honor, for the funeral, and plans are under way for a parade for when his body is returned to Peshtigo, she said.
One friend, Josiah Schafer, said the loss has motivated him even more to join the Army.
“I know he would be proud and supportive of me,” Schafer said. “If I die, I hope I have the same support as Steve did.”