LCpl. Neil Petsche

(reprinted from the Chicago Tribune, December 25, 2004)
Marine, 21, had service in his blood

Neil Petsche was only a teenage Eagle Scout when he started talking about his dream of joining the military, an ambition he eventually realized.

For Petsche, it was a matter of duty and family tradition. The native of Lena, Ill., about 125 miles northwest of Chicago, was a fourth-generation soldier.

Petsche, a 21-year-old Marine lance corporal, died Tuesday in a Humvee rollover in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, the Pentagon said.

Friends and family said Petsche never hesitated to follow his calling.

“He believed that he was serving his fellow Americans, his friends and his family by joining the military,” said Dan Todd, his principal at Lena-Winslow High School. “He felt like he was giving. He was a giving kind of kid.”

Petsche’s family, in a statement, said Neil had told them that he returned for a second tour of duty in Iraq to “finish the job we started and because we are making a difference.”

Petsche’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all had served in the military.

“I can tell you it’s pretty hard for a parent to open his door and find two Marines walking out of a car in front of your home,” said David Petsche, Neil’s father. “I’m former military, so I knew what that meant.”

Petsche was a drummer in the jazz and marching bands, Todd said, and well-liked in the town of 2,800 residents.