Peter Wagler—March 2006 Shipment Honoree
Army Cpl.,18, of Partridge, Kan. ; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Jan. 23, 2006 of wounds sustained that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M1A2 Abrams tank during patrol operations in Baghdad. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Lance M. Chase.
Family mourns slain soldier from KansasSource: Suzanne Perez Tobias, The Wichita Eagle
Peter Wagler was 7 when his father, David, made him a plaque with the meaning of his name –“rock” — and a Bible verse, Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage,” it said. “Do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The Lord was with Wagler when he joined the Army a year ago, his father said. And family members said they felt the Lord’s presence Thursday when they gathered to grieve his death.
Cpl. Wagler, a native of Partridge, died Monday in Iraq. According to a Department of Defense report, Wagler and another U.S. soldier were killed and two others were injured when a bomb exploded near their M1A2 Abrams tank while they were conducting patrols in Baghdad.
Wagler, fifth of David and Trish Wagler’s eight children, was 18. Older brother Vanya, a medical student at Oklahoma State University, remembers his mischievous side. “He was full of energy, carefree,” Vanya Wagler said. “I remember him using fireworks, doing different things just to have a good time.”
From the age of 5, Peter Wagler talked about joining the military, his father said. Posters of jet fighters decorated his bedroom wall. He craved speed and excitement. Like his siblings, he was home-schooled and active in the family’s church, Berean Baptist in Hutchinson. At 16, he got a job at a local storage company but was frustrated when managers didn’t let him operate the heavy machines. “He’d been operating power equipment since he was 10 around here,” his father said. The family lives on a farm just outside Partridge, in rural Reno County, though David Wagler works as a financial adviser.
So it was little surprise when Peter Wagler told his parents in late 2004 that he planned to enlist in the Army. Still, they struggled with letting him go. “We had many discussions,” David Wagler said. “It wasn’t our preference. But he had such a good attitude, and it was clear that this wasn’t just a whim…. We thought it was the right thing to do, to give him our blessing, and we did.” He completed basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., and then served at Fort Hood, Texas. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team — the “Iron Horse.” His tank crew was deployed to Iraq in December.
Before leaving, Wagler wrote a letter and gave it to his parents to put in the family’s safe. It was to be opened only if he didn’t make it back. They opened the letter Tuesday. “He said he had no regrets,” David Wagler said. “He said, ‘I would rather live my life fully and die young, than live a long and boring life.’ ”
The family was together for the last time at Thanksgiving. Peter Wagler’s two older sisters — Maria, a missionary who is helping people with AIDS in South Africa, and Rochelle, a mother of two in Missouri — had traveled back to the farm for the holiday. Most of the family gathered in the same dining room Thursday morning, but the table had been moved to make room for television cameras. David and Trish Wagler sat on the couch, flanked by their children. After David Wagler read a prepared statement and answered a few questions, a reporter asked Trish Wagler to comment: What went through her mind when she got the news? What about her son’s life makes her most proud? Trish Wagler paused, gripping the microphone, but said nothing. She turned to her husband and with tears in her eyes, shook her head. “It’s a good question,” David Wagler said. “But she’s not able to answer.”
Fifteen-year-old Esther Wagler, sitting on the arm of the sofa, later remarked that Peter Wagler would probably shake his head and laugh at the dining room-turned-pressroom. “He would like all the attention we’re getting,” she said. “He would get a real kick out of it.” Family members haven’t made funeral arrangements yet because they’re waiting to learn when Wagler’s body will arrive back in the U.S.
David Wagler said they have been overwhelmed with phone calls and other shows of support. Wednesday was David Wagler’s birthday, and he had to renew his driver’s license. “The driver’s license lady could hardly fill it out, she was crying so much,” he said. “It’s just had that kind of effect on everybody.”
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Peter during the month of March 2006 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Peter’s family and friends today and in the years to come.