The Fort Lewis community gathered Wednesday to remember Spc. Michael A. Dahl Jr. as a soft-spoken guy who never seemed to get rattled or upset.
The man who his fellow soldiers described as fun-loving and easy-going died Oct. 17 in Argahndab, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.
Dahl, 23, of Moreno Valley, Calif., belonged to the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division – specifically, the hard-hit 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. His memorial was held the same day eight more soldiers from the 1-17 were confirmed dead, also by enemy bombs.
Honest. Humble. Caring. Those were the words of tribute written by Dahl’s friend Spc. Peyton Cloninger in Afghanistan. They were read Wednesday at the memorial by Spc. Benjamin Gerdsen.
Dahl never liked to sit idle, his friend said. While other soldiers back home may have been content to watch movies or play X-Box, Dahl would persuade them they needed a trip to Las Vegas.
But while Dahl liked to have fun, he also had a serious side.
He first served in Iraq as a member of the Army Reserve. When he returned from combat, he chose to sign up for active duty and was deployed to Afghanistan.
“He was an Army-oriented person who wouldn’t trade his job for the world,” Gerdsen said, reading from Cloninger’s tribute. “Not only was he a great friend, he was a good soldier.”
Chaplain Col. Kenneth Hegtvedt said Dahl embodied solid Army values.
“He gave his life for strangers... many of whom have never known the freedom we take for granted,” Hegtvedt said.
Dahl was the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals honoring his service in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is survived by his father, Mike, his mother, Patricia, and his brother Angel in California.
Members of the family did not attend Wednesday’s memorial. But the North Fort Chapel was filled with soldiers, their spouses and civilians who watched, wept and listened as a traditional military farewell played out. Two bag pipers offered hymns. Guns outside the chapel volleyed in salute. “Taps” was played.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Beaudette gave a last roll call of soldiers. Those who were present in the chapel responded.
But when Dahl’s name was called repeatedly, there was only silence.
After the ceremony ended, soldiers and other mourners approached the helmet, gun and boots that stood at the front of the chapel along with Dahl’s photograph. Two-by-two, they offered salutes or bowed heads.
Several soldiers left dog tags or coins imprinted with the name of Dahl’s unit. Several women left white roses. After everyone left, soldiers helped pack up the mementos to send to Dahl’s family.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635