EAGLE RIVER, WI, USA U.S. Army SGT, BATTERY B, 1ST BATTALION, 37TH FIELD ARTILLERY, 3 SBCT, FORT LEWIS, WA THAINA, IRAQ 06/03/2007
Eagle River was bathed in red, white and blue Monday as it became the latest Wisconsin community to honor a fallen soldier, a hometown boy, a hero.
About fifteen flags flew in the breeze outside Our Savior Lutheran Church while the family of Sergeant Tyler J. Kritz said a final farewell to their son, nephew, brother, and friend. Kritz, who would have turned 22 on June 29, lost his life on June 3 in Iraq.
According to the defense department, Kritz and three other soldiers died in Thania when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. Kritz, who enlisted in the Army following his 2003 graduation from Northland Pines High School and was serving his second tour of duty, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.
Before the funeral, Sergeant Kritz’s uncle, Jeff Kritz, took the time to shake hands with each of the flag bearers, all of whom were members of either the Patriot Guard Riders or the American Legion Riders Association District 11. As he personally thanked each person for the respect shown to his family, he reflected on his nephew’s sacrifice for his country.
“It’s a part of war, it’s a part of freedom,” said Kritz, as he held the hand of his own young son.
Sergeant First Class Glen George, the casualty assistance officer supporting the family, fought back tears as he talked about Kritz.
“Sergeant Kritz is a hero, that’s all there is to it,” he said. “His father and mother are very proud of him and everybody in America should be too.”
Rep. Dan Meyer (R-Eagle River), a former mayor of Eagle River, said the entire country “should thank God there are people like Tyler who will go anywhere in the world and fight for the freedom we enjoy.”
“We should thank Tyler and his family for the tremendous sacrifice they made,” he said.
The large contingent of mourners included a group of young people who went to school with Kritz. Three former classmates, Kelsey Hess, Liz Troisien, and Kristy Pokrandt, said Kritz was a very caring person who was always looking out for his friends and never did anything halfway.
“Whatever he did he put his all into it,” said Pokrandt.
All three women said they are still trying to process the loss of their friend.
“We’re all so close in this town so it really hit hard,” said Troisien.
After the service, the family solemnly marched outside the church to Silver Lake Road where their son received full military honors including a 21-gun salute. Finally, a lone bugler played Taps as a cool breeze wafted over the crowd and the flags waved involuntarily in a final salute.