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In Memoriam

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LCpl. David Huhn

(reprinted from MLive.com, December 4, 2005)

Marine’s death takes toll on town

Sunday, December 04, 2005
By Chris Knape
The Grand Rapids Press
PORTLAND — A roadside bomb exploded on a dusty Iraqi street, killing the first soldier from this Ionia County town since the Vietnam War.

By all accounts, Marine Lance Cpl. David Huhn died Thursday doing what he loved, fighting for a cause he believed in. He signed up in 2004, determined to stamp out the terrorism that so infuriated him three years earlier on Sept. 11.

“He went there with the idea of a little payback,” said Jeff Helmel, an uncle and a retired Marine. “If I had been young enough, I would have been there with him.”

Huhn, 24, was among 10 Marines killed from the 1st Marine Division, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif. The attack, which also injured 11 soldiers, was the deadliest against U.S. troops in four months.

Portland, on the far eastern edge of Ionia County, promotes itself as the “City of Two Rivers” because the Grand and Looking Glass meet downtown. Yellow ribbons honoring members of the military hang throughout downtown, some tattered from age and wind but still bright enough to see among the Christmas decorations.

Most American flags around town flew at half staff Saturday.

At VFW Post 4090, Huhn’s picture is among those pinned to a board called “Portland’s Board of Pride and Gratitude,” a tribute to hometown soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Below him is a picture of his brother, Kevin, a Marine who has served in Iraq.

“It’s affecting everyone in here,” bartender Mary Riddle said. “It’s hitting too close to home.”

Mayor James Barnes said the town was prepared to rally around the family and their fallen hero, a 2000 graduate of Portland High School. Huhn’s father, Larry, died earlier this year at age 54. A sister, Jaime, died in a farming accident in 1990.

“The people who are in the service are in peoples’ minds here all the time,” Barnes said. “It’s something that we’re very conscious of.”

When he last spoke with his mother, Diane, on Thanksgiving, Huhn was excited about returning to California in January and later celebrating with his brother in Las Vegas. He expected action to heat up as Iraq moved closer to national elections Dec. 15.

“He was proud of what he was doing,” Kevin Huhn said. “He really liked it. He wanted to make it a career. It was the best thing he ever did.”

Huhn enjoyed fishing, hunting and video games. He watched professional wrestling and football and liked beer. His favorite kind? “Cold,” his brother and uncle chimed in.

Huhn’s body is expected back in the United States in a few weeks. His family said he volunteered to go into some of the most dangerous situations in Iraq.

“It’s reared its ugly head in our rural community, the war on terrorism,” Helmel said. “You always think it’s going to be the other person until it hits home. It’s just devastating.”