A 21-year-old Stryker infantryman from Fort Lewis was killed Saturday in Baghdad, just a week ahead of the birth of his first child.
Sgt. Joel A. Dahl, 21, of Los Lunas, N.M., was shot while on patrol in the Iraqi capital with fellow soldiers from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
His 19-year-old widow, Alia, told her hometown newspapers and TV stations that she began having contractions a couple of weeks ago, and was scheduled to be induced Friday to deliver their son.
Dahl was due home to see his family Monday.
“Ever since he found out I was contracting, he called every night: ‘Is the baby here? Is my little sport here? How’s my little man?’” Alia Dahl told TV station KRQE in Albuquerque.
The TV stations also reported Wednesday that Alia Dahl’s car was stolen, along with pictures of her husband and items for their baby.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office was taking up a collection for the young widow in addition to looking for the 1998 Honda Civic.
Fort Lewis officials said Dahl joined the Army after graduating from high school in 2004 and arrived at Fort Lewis in May 2005. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division, which is part of the 4th Brigade.
He deployed with the brigade to Iraq in April.
His battalion has been working in Baghdad’s Rashid District. Earlier this week, the 2-23 soldiers killed six insurgents and captured another five in a series of ambushes, and found a 100-pound bag of explosives and a cache of rocket launchers, the U.S. military reported.
Dahl, an infantry team leader, was posthumously promoted to sergeant, a post spokesman said. He is the third from his battalion to be killed in Iraq.
Dahl’s adviser at the Las Lunas High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps said the young man was on the drill team, thrived in the program and looked forward to serving in the military.
“Hands down, this is what the guy lived for,” Maj. Mike Lloyd told the Valencia County, N.M., News-Bulletin. “It was his calling to do this.”
Dahl’s high school and church friends told the News-Bulletin he was funny and outgoing.
“He made you feel special when he was talking to you – like you’re the only person who mattered at that moment,” said Michelle Rael, a friend from his church. “He charmed a lot of the girls at youth group, I must admit.”
Except for Alia, who told the newspaper it took a while for her future husband to win her over. When he was up at Fort Lewis and she was staying down in New Mexico, he’d have roses delivered to her at work.
Dahl was the oldest of five children; as such, he helped raise his three sisters and brother, family members said. He also worked at a local day care before joining the Army.
Alia Dahl said she and her husband talked a lot as their son’s arrival neared. They chose a name – Kaiden – and he talked about how he would teach him to play football and wrestle. She joked that he would grow up to run track and cross country, like her.
“I was terrified of thinking about Kaiden coming home from kindergarten and saying, ‘All the other kids have dads and I don’t,’” she told the News-Bulletin. “And I want to tell him, ‘Your dad’s in heaven and he’s in a better place.’
“‘But he died serving his country and he loved you.’”
Memorials subject of online poll
Fort Lewis has launched an online survey to find out what people think about memorial ceremonies for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The post’s inspector general is gathering information for Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. to consider in deciding whether the post should eliminate individual memorials in favor of a single monthly ceremony for fallen soldiers.
You can find a link to the survey by going to FOB Tacoma at blogs.thenewstribune.com/military.
Post officials earlier this month intended to go through with the change to monthly memorials, but Jacoby said he needed more time to think it over.
The inspector general will gather responses to the survey over the next two to three weeks and then make a report to Jacoby.
The new post commander has not set a timeline for when he might revisit the decision, said Fort Lewis spokesman Lt. Col. Ken McDorman.
“Time is not a factor in this,” McDorman said. “He is being very deliberate, very methodical in all his decisions. He wants to make sure he hears from all the influencers, because it is a very, very important issue.”
Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921