Daniel R Olsen
April 2, 2007
Killed while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
|From Egan Minnesota WCCO 4 wcco.com
Eagan Marine Shot, Killed In Iraq
|(Source Unknown) Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Daniel Olsen remembered
A gentle Sunday school teacher from Eagan who found "a band of brothers" in the Marines is the state's latest casualty of the war in Iraq.
Lance Cpl. Daniel R. Olsen, 20, who had just deployed in January, fell victim to enemy fire at 5 a.m. Monday (Minnesota time) as he patrolled Anbar province near Fallujah. He was wearing full body armor at the time he was hit, the military said.
"They told us he was shot in the back with small-arms fire,'' said his father, Wayne Olsen, a software engineer at Northwest Airlines, who read the medical report on his only son.
Olsen is the 49th Minnesota member of the military to die in Iraq during the four-year-old war. Besides his father, Olsen's family includes his mother, Gwen, a stay-at-home mom, and two sisters, Shelcy, 22, a recent University of Minnesota graduate, and Shaina, 18, an Eagan High School senior.
On Tuesday morning, the day after learning of Olsen's death, the family opened their home at the end of a serene, wooded cul-de-sac to talk about him.
His mother described her son as quiet and introverted.
"He didn't like a lot of attention," she said.
He also was sensitive and caring, his mother said, and started teaching Sunday school several years ago to 4- and 5-year-olds at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie.
Gwen Olsen said Daniel talked about joining the military before he graduated from Eagan High School two years ago. He enlisted in the Marines on March 15, 2005 - his 18th birthday.
His mother thinks Olsen, after growing up with an older and a younger sister, was drawn to the company and camaraderie other men.
"I think it worked for him. It was a way not to stand out," Gwen Olsen said. "He found a home with the Marines. He was with a group he respected and enjoyed."
He also might have been influenced by his father and grandfather, who both served in the Navy.
His sisters remember a playful brother who liked to surprise and tease them.
Shelcy Olsen recalled his joking about the "whiplash" she gave him when he rode in her car as she learned to drive a stick shift.
Shaina Olsen likes to remember the times he'd try to wake her up by tickling her or standing over her while she slept.
The three siblings had shared interests, including playing in the high school band's award-winning winter drumline. Shelcy Olsen said that while she and her sister wanted to stand out for their musical talents, her brother was content - as in so many things - simply to participate.
She said he played a range of auxiliary percussion instruments, but the activity wasn't one of his big passions and was about the only group activity he participated in during high school.
"It was a group he could be part of without putting too much effort into it," Shelcy Olsen explained.
Outside of that, he liked to listen to screaming hard-rock music. "Nothing I listened to," his older sister said.
Daniel Olsen betrayed no great fears in Iraq and, in e-mails and letters home, talked little about his duties or the war.
"I don't think he thought a lot about the politics of it," Shelcy Olsen said. "He enjoyed being part of the group. Part of the Marines is to obey and respect. That worked for him. He didn't have to make a lot of his own decisions. He definitely loved his group of guys."
Shirley Gerdin, of Plymouth, who taught Sunday school with Daniel Olsen, said he was committed to children.
"I'm just so heartbroken to think that he's gone," Gerdin said. "He was low-key with a big smile, but the kids just loved him dearly and so did I. He will be missed."
Gwen Olsen said the fog of grief had only begun to descend on the family. They are relying on their Christian faith that Daniel Olsen is in a better place and that they'll see him again, the family said.
"God knew the number of his days before he was born," Gwen Olsen said.
The Olsens also find solace in knowing he was doing what he wanted. Another Marine once told Gwen Olsen that Marines love the Marines but hate their work. The sentiment seemed to resonate with her son, she said.
The success or failure of the war, the rightness or wrongness of the mission are questions the Olsens don't dwell on.
"I think God is in control," Gwen Olsen said. "It's way bigger than our opinions."
Daniel Olsen was scheduled to serve in Iraq for seven months. He then planned to serve out the rest of his eight-year enlistment. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
He came home during the Christmas holiday and spent some time doing his favorite things: eating pizza and playing video games. The family last saw him when he came home briefly before his January deployment.
Daniel Olsen had taken some finance and math courses, but hadn't really mapped out his long-term plans, his mother said.
"He had just begun to think about the future," Gwen Olsen said.
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