Sgt. Dugan, First U.S. Casualty of Operation Joint Endeavor, is Laid to Rest in Ohio
300 mourners packed a church in Kenton, Ohio city Tuesday to remember Army Sgt. Donald A. Dugan, the 38-year-old career soldier who died Feb. 3 after picking up ammunition that exploded in his hands. "He truly believed in the mission in Bosnia and was happy when he left.
This is the way I will always remember him," said his widow Miriam, who attended with the couple's son and three daughters. Dugan, who was born in Kenton but grew up on a dairy farm in nearby Ridgeway, was honored at the burial with a flag-draped casket and a 21-gun salute while sounds of a bugle playing "Taps" floated in the air.
Dugan's body rests just 70 miles north of the Dayton air base where the Bosnian peace accord was negotiated last November.
At a memorial service Dugan held in Germany on February 9, tearful comrades hailed the 38-year-old Ohioan as a "soldier's soldier" who regarded the army as his extended family. At a memorial service at his old base in Germany, the traditional roll call and taps for soldiers killed in the line of duty echoed through an old gymnasium.
"When you look at the accomplishments of this soldier, it becomes apparent that he was a magnificient solider," said Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Stone in a letter read at the service at a barracks in Buedingen, 25 miles west of Frankfurt. "If you wanted to create a model, a leader for the army, you would have Sergeant Dugan," said Stone, his former commander in the Army's First Armored Division now stationed in Bosnia.
Dugan's wife, Miriam, in her first public comments since his death, issued a statement saying he "truly believed in the mission in Bosnia and was happy when he left." "The army was Donald's life and I am happy that he was doing what he liked doing most when he diedhis job with the army." she said. "This is the way I will always remember him."
A make-shift altar surrounded by flowers from his calvary scout unit featured a pair of his military boots placed under an M-16 weapon with his helmet perched on topan Army tradition. A picture of Dugan in his dress uniform, adorned with the medals he had been awarded since joining the Army in 1975, was placed near the altar. Dugan's body was flow back to Ohio, Thursday. He will be buried there next Tuesday in a family plot between the bodies of his father and brother.
The exact circumstances of his death is still not entirely clear. "There continues to be no indications of any hostile fire or other threatening actions by the former warring factions in the course of the incident," NATO said on Tuesday (Feb 6). "There is no evidence that he stepped on a mine or otherwise activated it, said a spokesman"
Sgt. Dugan, 38, died in Bosnia on Saturday of "massive, penetrating head injuries," according to the U.S. Army in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where Dugan's body has been taken. He was killed when ammunition exploded in his hands, and not by a land mine as originally reported, a NATO spokesman said Wednesday. Dugan was serving with a scout platoon assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Cavalry Brigade. His unit was manning a remote checkpoint near Gradacac, about 25 miles northwest of the main U.S. base at Tuzla.
Relatives remembered Sgt. Dugan as a dedicated career soldier. "He definitely liked the military," his brother, John Dugan, told Reuterss in a telephone interview. "But don't get me wrong, he wasn't a Rambo type. He was a model soldier." Dugan fathered three children, two by his first wife Betty whom he divorced in 1983. He also adopted a fourth child.
Dugan is from Belle Center, a small village in Logan County, Ohio, the youngest of Donald and Patrice Dugan's six childrenthree boys and three girls. His father died when the career soldier was a little boy. The family lived on a farm just outside of town. In an interview with The New York Times, Dugan's brother John said his little brother attended Ohio Northern University for one year after graduating from high school, then decided to join the military. In high school, Dugan was a member of the Future Farmers of America and the National Honor Society. Frank Galyk, a Logan County deputy sheriff, was one of Dugan's closest friends in high school. "He never mentioned any regrets about joining the Army, said Galyk, "He loved his country and wanted to serve her the best he could."
Mary Faye, Sgt. Dugan's aunt, says the family hopes his death was not in vain. "I hope it will make other soldiers there be a little more aware of the dangers. I'm sure they're alert, but this will bring it home to them a lot more than anything else," she said.
At a brief ceremony Sunday, Feb 4, on the tarmac of the Tuzla air base which serves as headquarters for the 16,000 U.S. troops in Bosnia, Sgt. Dugan's body was put on a transport plane bound for the U.S. base in Germany. Military officials, apparently anxious to minimize the media impact of their first Bosnian casualty, banned jounalists, photographers and television crews from covering the arrival of the body at the air base.
There were no other NATO fatalities in Bosnia over the Feb 4-5 weekend, but a Bosnian soldier was injured by a landmine Sunday near the U.S. support base at Lukavac near Tuzla. Eyewitnesses said he did not appear to be critically injured and was taken away by ambulance. Two British soldiers suffered injuries yesterday when their vehicle was hit by rounds of sniper fire in Ilidza, a Serb suburb of Sarajevo, that has been plagued by sniping in January and February. Earlier on Saturday, Feb 3, another IFOR vehicle was fired on by snipers. "Nobody was wounded," an IFOR spokesman, Lt. Col. Mark Rayner said, adding that five small arms rounds hit the vehicle while it was moving from the center of Sarajevo to Ilidza. He said IFOR troops did not return fire. According to Rayner, IFOR protested to civilian authorities in Ilidza, demanding that they prevent such incidents.
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