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Frazee Guardsman killed in Iraq

Minnesota National Guard Sgt. Greg Riewer, 28, of Frazee, returned to the U.S. Tuesday -- as the 12th Minnesota Guardsman to be killed in Iraq since their deployment there.

Nicknamed "Smiley" by his family, Riewer was characterized by them as being "a very friendly guy who was always willing to help ... he did whatever was asked of him."

Riewer was killed while on patrol near Fallujah on Friday.

Col. Kevin Gutknecht, a National Guard spokesman, said at a press conference Saturday that the Frazee soldier died Friday when a roadside explosive device struck his vehicle at about 5:30 p.m. Iraq time.

The blast also injured three other Minnesota members of his unit, the Bemidji-based Company A, 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment. According to Gutknecht, information regarding the victims' names and medical conditions is not being released at the present time, per Guard policy.

Also at Saturday's press conference, Gutknecht issued a statement from the family that said, "Greg had a big heart and was always quick to help those in need. He was part of a large, close-knit family that will miss him deeply."

"I will miss him horribly," Riewer's father, Richard, said through a Guard news statement.

A 1997 graduate of Frazee-Vergas High School, Riewer enlisted shortly after graduating. Among his 11 siblings was a brother, Andrew, who is serving in the same Minnesota Guard unit.

"A mother couldn't ask for a better son -- always loving, always caring, always there to help everyone," Richard Riewer said, adding that Greg's brother, Andy, "was a huge inspiration to him. They were truly best friends."

Through a spokesman, family members declined to be interviewed on Monday.

Father Joe DeCrans, who serves the congregation of Riewer's home parish, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Frazee, said Tuesday that Riewer was "a well-mannered, well-behaved kid, from a good family."

DeCrans noted that while he hadn't seen Riewer in more than a year, he remembered him as fun-loving, polite and obedient.

Riewer's body was expected to arrive in Dover, Md., Tuesday, and will be flown from there to Fargo, according to funeral director Preston Eidenschink of the Furey Funeral Home in Frazee. Funeral arrangements are pending, Eidenschink added, but are tentatively scheduled for the middle of next week.

Riewer had previously served in Bosnia before being deployed to Iraq last year. His unit was charged with providing base security, training Iraqi soldiers and occasionally doing combat missions, Gutknecht said.

Another Frazee native was injured in the roadside bomb attack, according to the Frazee Forum newspaper.

Spec. Ryan Puttbrese, 25, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, his mother, Mary Lou Puttbrese, told the Frazee Forum.

"He's got a gash behind his left knee, a fractured tibia on his left leg, a broken left ankle, a broken right ankle, and a hairline fracture in his pelvis ... he was very, very lucky," she said.

Sunday, Puttbrese was transferred from a medical facility in Iraq to one in Germany.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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