|From The Beaumont Enterprise zwire.com
A community mourns as U.S. Army soldier John Hennen is buried in Vinton, La.
By ROSE YBARRA , The Enterprise
VINTON, La. - Robert Baggett remembers Sgt. 1st Class John Michael Hennen as a tough guy, but the description of prankster ranks a close second.
Baggett and Hennen served a tour in Iraq together in 2004-05 with the Louisiana National Guard.
"He used to set buckets of water on the top of our doors when we were dog tired," Baggett said. "Then he'd knock on the door and videotape us getting soaked."
Baggett was among the hundreds of mourners who attended Hennen's funeral service on a rainy Monday afternoon at First Baptist Church in Vinton, followed by his burial at Nibletts Bluff Cemetery.
Hennen, 26, two other solders and an interpreter were killed on June 17 in Panjway, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee.
Hennen was assigned to the Louisiana National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment in Lake Charles, La.
Hennen, regarded by his fellow soldiers as an expert marksman, was training members of the Afghan army in sniper tactics, said 1st Sgt. Stephen Hicksman.
"He jumped at the chance to help," Hicksman said. "He loved being a sniper."
Besides the pranks he pulled, Baggett also remembers Hennen as "the best shot in the company" and "levelheaded in combat and life."
"He was jokester but when it was time to be serious, he was serious," Baggett said. "He stayed on point."
It was standing room only at First Baptist Church, where Hennen was remembered as a devoted soldier and father to his 4-year old son, John Michael Hennen II, whom he nicknamed, "Little Man."
After the church service, the younger Hennen twirled around outside, carrying a bright yellow umbrella that was shaped like a duck. But he stopped his impromptu game long enough to salute his father's flag-draped casket as it was carried out of the church and loaded into the hearse.
Staff Sgt. Alejandro Mejia said Hennen talked about his son all the time.
"It tore him up to be away from him," Mejia said. "He used to talk about all the things he and his 'Little Man' were going to do together when he got back."
Vinton Mayor Kenneth Stinson was among the speakers at the funeral service. He thanked the town's residents for their massive show of support on Sunday when Hennen's body was transported from the Lake Charles Regional Airport to Vinton.
"People lined the streets and even the interstate (10), carrying flags and wearing red, white and blue for the entire route," Stinson said. "It's a sight I will never forget as long as I live."
Stinson also presented a framed proclamation to Hennen's parents, Paul and Susan Moreno, declaring Monday Sgt. 1st Class John Michael Hennen Day.
Hennen was born in New Orleans and lived in Nederland before his parents settled in Vinton when he was six years old. He was a 1999 graduate of Vinton High School.
Besides his parents and son, Hennen is survived by four sisters and numerous nieces and nephews.
|From The Beaumont Enterprise zwire.com
Slain soldier's remains coming home Sunday
By: ROSE YBARRA , The Enterprise
The body of a Vinton, La., soldier killed in Afghanistan on June 17 will arrive in Louisiana on Sunday.
Sgt. 1st Class John Michael Hennen, 26, and two other soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.
Maj. Mike Kazmierzak said Hennen's remains will arrive at Lake Charles Regional Airport at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday where his family, an honor guard and officers from the Vinton Police Department will receive his body and escort it to his hometown of Vinton.
Vinton Mayor Kenneth Stinson said he's received many calls from concerned citizens, asking what they can do to help honor Hennen, the first Vinton son to die in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stinson expects hundreds of Vinton residents to line the streets to meet the procession as it comes into town from Lake Charles.
"We've been hearing news about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for a long time, but it doesn't really hit you until it's someone from your hometown," Stinson said. "We all just feel so horrible about this and we want to honor him in any way we can."
Hennen's funeral service is at 2 p.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in Vinton. He will be buried with full military honors at Nibletts Bluff Cemetery.
Stinson said a proclamation will declare Monday as Sgt. 1st Class John Michael Hennen Day. Hennen's mother, Susan Moreno, said she is deeply touched and honored by the distinction.
"He's going to receive a hero's goodbye," Moreno said. "He's my baby boy and my hero but he's the community's hero too."
Vinton City Council member William "B.B" Loyd said the entire community has been in a somber mood since word of Hennen's death was received.
"We're all affected by it, the children, the grownups, everyone," Loyd said. "We're all feeling emptiness in our hearts."
Hennen, a 1999 graduate of Vinton High School, was assigned to the Louisiana National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment in Lake Charles.
He is survived by his parents, Paul and Susan Moreno; a 4-year old son, John Michael Hennen II; four sisters; and 12 nieces and nephews.
"He was a great American, he was a great citizen of Vinton but above all, he was a great father," said Vinton City Council member Ed Vice. "He fought and died to make this world a better and safer place for his little boy and for all the other children."
Arrangements are under the direction of Hixson Funeral Home of Vinton.