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Remembering the fallen

A tribute to troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Chad David Groepper

Killed on Feb. 17, 2008

KINGSLEY, Iowa -- Cpl. Chad Groepper had always been known for his bravery. He enlisted in the Army days after graduating from high school, and he wasn't hesitant to serve on the front line in Iraq.

Family and friends of the fallen soldier gathered in this northwest Iowa town Wednesday to remember his courage and honor his sacrifice.

Groepper, 21, was killed Feb. 17 during combat in Iraq's Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, leaving behind a wife and a 4-month-old daughter.

About 1,000 people filled Kingsley-Pierson High School's gymnasium for the funeral service. Groepper's sister, Denae Erickson, stood at the podium and urged mourners not to cry.

At the school's entrance, visitors penned memories of Groepper while others read an essay that Groepper wrote several years ago. In the essay, he recalled a day in first grade when he led a snowball attack on fourth-graders who had refused to allow the younger children to play on a snow pile.

Responding to a classmate's dare, Chad threw a snowball, striking one of those "almighty" fourth-graders.

"You know how I am," he wrote. "It doesn't take much to light my fuse."

Erickson later read a memorial message to those closest to Chad, including his wife, Stephanie, and their infant daughter, Clarissa.

"Clarissa, your daddy wants you to stand up for what is right and to never back down," Erickson said. "Especially when it's a snowball fight."

The soldier's father, Dave, said last week that his son was in the infantry because he wasn't afraid. He called his son an "action figure" who always wanted to be on the front line.

Chad Groepper, who was posthumously promoted from specialist to corporal, was buried in Kingsley Cemetery after the service.

Groepper was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division of Fort Lewis, Wash. He graduated in 2004 from Kingsley-Pierson High School.

Groepper had been serving in Iraq for nearly one year, his father said, and had been scheduled to return to the United States as early as May.

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