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Remembering the fallen

A tribute to troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Benjamin James Slaven

Killed on June 9, 2006

Around Christmas a few years ago, Benjamin Slaven found out that a friend, a young father, was struggling to pay the bills.

Without a second thought, Slaven's stepfather recalled Monday, Slaven signed over his whole paycheck and told his friend, "Buy your kids some Christmas presents."

"He just had a great heart and was really mature for a kid that young," said Nick Huenink of Plymouth, Neb. "You can't say enough good things about him."

Slaven, 22, was killed Friday when a roadside bomb hit his Humvee in Diwaniyah, Iraq.

The private first class had been in Iraq since March, serving with the Army Reserve's 308th Transportation Company, based in Lincoln.

Slaven was one of two Nebraska service members killed in Iraq on Friday. Marine Lance Cpl. Brent Zoucha, 19, of Clarks died when an explosion hit his vehicle in Anbar province.

In all, 37 service members from Nebraska and western Iowa, or with ties to the area, have been killed in the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Slaven is the first Army reservist from Nebraska to die in Iraq.

He joined the Army Reserve in part because both his parents -- Bruce Slaven of Beatrice, Neb., and Judy Huenink of Plymouth -- served in the Air Force, said his grandmother, Beverly Malchow of Beatrice. His sister, Misti Slaven, is also in the Army Reserve.

"He was proud, and he wanted to serve," Malchow said.

After attending Tri-County High School, Benjamin Slaven earned a high school equivalency diploma from Southeast Community College in 2005, Malchow said.

He worked at Exmark Manufacturing in Beatrice, where he assembled lawnmowers until March 2005, and then at the Beatrice State Development Center.

At the center, Slaven worked with developmentally disabled young adults and showed skills as a caretaker, his supervisor said.

"He demonstrated a lot of compassion and patience," Donald Earl said.

Slaven was called to active duty just a few months after starting work at the center and had hoped to return after his tour in Iraq, Earl said.

Nick Huenink said he would remember Slaven for his maturity and kind heart.

"You looked at him, and he was the perfect G.I. Joe," he said.

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