The National Guard on Wednesday released the details of an accident on March 22nd that killed SGT Weichel. The official Pentagon news release says he died “from injuries suffered in a noncombat related incident.” But there is much more to the story.
Sgt. Dennis P. Weichel Jr., 29, of Providence, R.I, died March 22, from injuries sustained when he was struck by an armored fighting vehicle after moving an Afghan child to safety.
Weichel, an Infantryman, mobilized with Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 56th Troop Command, to Camp Atterbury, Ind. in November 2011, and then deployed forward to Afghanistan in early March.
On the morning of March 22, Weichel and members of his unit were leaving the Black Hills Firing Range in Laghman province, Afghanistan, when they encountered multiple Afghan children in the path of their convoy. Weichel was among several Soldiers who dismounted to disperse the children away from the vehicles.
Most of the children moved, but one little girl went back to pick up some brass shell casings in the road. Afghan civilians often recycle the casings, and the girl appeared to aim to do that. As the child attempted to remove the item from underneath a U.S. Army mine-resistant, a 16-ton ambush-protected vehicle, known as an MRAP, Weichel moved her to safety and was struck by the MRAP in the process. Weichel was evacuated to the Jalalabad Medical Treatment Facility where he succumbed to his wounds.
“He was a big kid at heart. He always had a smile on his face, and he made everyone laugh,” 1st Sgt. Nicky Peppe, who served with Weichel in Iraq, is quoted as saying in an Army story. “But as much as Weichel was funny, he was also a professional. When it was time to go outside the wire for a combat patrol, he was all business.”
Weichel had been a member of the Rhode Island Army National Guard since 2001. He deployed to Iraq in 2005 as a member of Company D, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry (Mountain) Regiment, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has ordered U.S. and Rhode Island flags across the state to be flown at half-staff until SGT Weichel is laid to rest.
He was posthumously promoted from the rank of specialist to sergeant, March 26. SGT Weichel also was awarded the Bronze Star and the nato Service medal Afghanistan campaign Ribbon RI star. Weichel is survived by three children, his fiancée, and his parents.
Visiting hours are set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Olson & Parent Funeral Home in Providence. He will be buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.