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Published: Monday, 5/5/2008

2 fallen Army reservists honored in Monclova Township

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tiphany Eckert touches her daughter, Marlee, after the unveiling of a plaque for her father, Sgt. Gary 'Andy' Eckert, Jr. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)
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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20071111&Kategori=NEWS13&Lopenr=1111009&Ref=PH" target="_blank  "><b>Area fallen heroes</b></a> 
Tiphany Eckert touches her daughter, Marlee, after the unveiling of a plaque for her father, Sgt. Gary 'Andy' Eckert, Jr. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY) <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20071111&Kategori=NEWS13&Lopenr=1111009&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>Area fallen heroes</b></a>
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Tiphany Eckert clutched her 4-year-old daughter, Marlee, yesterday near a covered plaque that would be unveiled moments later.

"You see that room in there? It's going to be named after Daddy in Heaven," Mrs. Eckert, 26, told Marlee.

Sgt. Gary "Andy" Eckert, Jr., of Whitehouse, died in Iraq in May, 2005, after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Samarra. He was 24.

"Bubby, you want to pull this side like a present," Mrs. Eckert instructed their son, Myles, during the unveiling ceremony. Relatives say the sandy-haired 3-year-old is the spitting image of his father.

Unveiling a plaque memorializing Sgt. Kendell K.Frederick, above, are 1st Sgt. Douglas Wilson, left, and Staff Sgt. Edward Villareal. Unveiling a plaque memorializing Sgt. Kendell K.Frederick, above, are 1st Sgt. Douglas Wilson, left, and Staff Sgt. Edward Villareal.
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About 200 Army reservists, family, and others gathered yesterday to honor Sergeant Eckert and a suburban Detroit soldier killed in Iraq, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick, as structures were dedicated in their names at the headquarters of the Army Reserve's 983rd Engineer Battalion in Monclova Township.

An assembly room was dedicated to Sergeant Eckert, and the adjacent machine shop was dedicated to Sergeant Frederick.

Sergeant Frederick, a native of Trinidad who lived in Mary-land until moving to Michigan for the military, was killed by a roadside bomb near Tikrit in October, 2005. He was 21.

His family lives in Maryland and did not attend the ceremony yesterday.

The 983rd Engineer Battalion color guard stands in the Army Reserve unit s headquarters by portraits of
Sergeant Frederick and Sgt. Gary  Andy  Eckert, Jr., yesterday.
The 983rd Engineer Battalion color guard stands in the Army Reserve unit s headquarters by portraits of Sergeant Frederick and Sgt. Gary Andy Eckert, Jr., yesterday.
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He was killed while traveling back from Camp Anaconda near Baghdad, after being fingerprinted there to complete his application for citizenship, the late sergeant's squad leader, Staff Sgt. Edward Villareal, said.

He was granted citizenship after his death, and his mother, Michelle Murphy, has lobbied Congress to simplify the citizenship process for military.

The Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act is awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

Sergeant Eckert was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, into a military family. His mother, Deborah Cieslak, said she was surprised he chose to join the reserves after high school even though his father, Gary Eckert, was an Army platoon sergeant.

But the son once scolded for losing his helmet before a training weekend became a dedicated warrior, his father said.

"I saw a hard charger that had learned something out there, and I was proud," Mr. Eckert told the crowd. "Somebody had guided my son better than I could have."

Sergeant Eckert's widow described their love as "the kind you find on the silver screen." Before his last tour of Iraq, he told her, "This is our last goodbye. I will never see you again," she said.

"How he held me in those moments, it sustains me, even now," she told the crowd.

The dedication ceremony yesterday felt like a sort of closure, Mrs. Eckert said. She said she is writing a book about coping with her husband's death and is preparing to enroll in a college program in creative writing this fall.

She hopes others will find strength in her story because coping with her husband's death and living as a single mother have ultimately forced her to grow stronger, she said.

"I've also found there is no such thing as a broken heart," Mrs. Eckert told the crowd. "How can something work if it is broken? Maybe collapsed, like a deflated balloon, but not broken. My deflated heart has been renewed because of Marlee and Myles."

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6061.



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