Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Travis A Van Zoest

Bismarck, North Dakota

June 6, 2006

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
21 Army Sgt

National Guard's, 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery

Grand Forks, North Dakota

 Killed in Khogyani, Afghanistan, when their HMWWV struck two anti-tank mines during combat operations.

Patriot Guard Riders Honor Sgt Van Zoest

June 17, 2006 Bismarck, ND

Photos submitted by Tarra Hartl

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From The Governor of North Dakota June 7, 2006

Hoeven Statement On The Deaths In Afghanistan Of Spc. Curtis Robert Mehrer And Sgt. Travis Allen Van Zoest, And The Wounding Of Sgt 1st Class Timothy James Wicks

BISMARCK, N.D. - Gov. John Hoeven today issued the following statement in response to the death of Spc. Curtis Robert Mehrer and Sgt. Travis Allen Van Zoest, who died in combat Tuesday in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wicks was injured in the same incident.

"Our state and our nation are deeply saddened today by the deaths of two North Dakota heroes, Spc. Curtis R. Mehrer and Sgt. Travis Allen Van Zoest, who died Tuesday while serving our nation in Afghanistan. Mikey and I are joined by all Americans in mourning their loss.

"We extend our deepest sympathy to Curtis's and Travis's families and friends, and we pray for them. Curtis, Travis and Timothy are true heroes and we pledge never to forget their sacrifice, or the sacrifice and pain endured in these difficult times by their families."

"Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wicks, who was injured in the same incident and is now en route to Landstuhl, Germany for treatment. We are joined by all North Dakotans in thanking him for his sacrifice on behalf of our nation, and in wishing him a speedy and complete recovery."
The Minot Daily News June 14, 2006 
War hits home 
BISMARCK - Two North Dakota National Guard soldiers were killed in action, and another soldier was injured in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Michael Haugen, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, said Sgt. Travis Van Zoest, 21, and Spc. Curtis Mehrer, 21, both of Bismarck, were killed in action as a result of a improvised explosive device detonating near their vehicle. Sgt. 1st Class Tim Wicks, 39, also of Bismarck, is listed in stable condition and is en route to a military hospital in Germany, Haugen said.

Van Zoest was a student at Minot State University from 2003 until his deployment.

Van Zoest, Mehrer and Wicks were with Alpha Battery of the 1-188th Air Defense Artillery Security Forces. The soldiers were conducting combat security operations when a roadside explosion damaged their vehicle.

The enemy attack happened at about midnight CST on June 5. (Local Afghanistan time was about 9:30 a.m. June 6.)

"Our entire National Guard family is extremely distraught at the loss of these magnificent soldiers. Our sympathies and prayers go out to all of the families for their losses in their time of sadness," Haugen said. "We also wish Sgt. 1st Class Tim Wicks a speedy recovery. We must continue to honor our heroes and always remember their great sacrifices in the name of freedom."

''We extend our deepest sympathy to Curtis' and Travis' families and friends, and we pray for them," said Gov. John Hoeven. "Curtis and Timothy are true heroes and we pledge never to forget their sacrifice, or the sacrifice and pain endured in these difficult times by their families.

''Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wicks, who was injured in the same incident and en route to Landstuhl, Germany, for treatment. We are joined by all North Dakotans in thanking him for his sacrifice on behalf of our nation, and in wishing him a speedy and complete recovery.''

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said, ''My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the North Dakota soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan this week. They are patriots and heroes, and the service they gave to their state and their nation will long be remembered. I join all North Dakotans in mourning their loss.''

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said in a statement, ''The news that we have lost two young, courageous National Guard soldiers is heartbreaking. The prayers of all North Dakotans are with the families of Sgt. Van Zoest and Spec. Mehrer at this time. We will never forget the selfless and brave sacrifice these soldiers have made in the cause of freedom.

Our thoughts are also with Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wicks as he recovers from his injuries.

Both Van Zoest and Mehrer were single.

Van Zoest is survived by his parents, Sheila Richter, Bismarck, and Bernardus Van Zoest, Dane, Wis.; Terry Richter, stepfather; brother Derrick Van Voest; and stepbrothers Tyler Richter and Josh Harris.

Van Zoest graduated from Century High School in May 2003 and attended Bismarck State College and Minot State University from 2003 until his deployment. He enlisted in the N.D. Army National Guard in 2002.

Mehrer is survived by parents Kevin and Joyce Mehrer, his daughter Hailee McCormick, Bismarck, and twin brother Alan Mehrer, 21, all of Bismarck.

Mehrer graduated from Bismarck High School in May 2003. He enlisted in the N.D. Army National Guard in November 2003.

The 1-188th Air Defense Artillery Battalion, headquartered in Grand Forks and "Alpha" Battery, Bismarck, have about 152 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. The soldiers entered federal active duty status Dec. 1, 2005. The unit arrived for duty in Afghanistan March 23.

The families of all the 188th soldiers were being informed of the deaths and injury Wednesday, said Master Sgt. Rob Keller, Bismarck, a spokesman for the N.D. National Guard.

Ten North Dakota Guard soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2004. A total of 14 U.S. service members from North Dakota or serving with North Dakota military units have died while on duty in the two countries.

National Guard Spc. Michael Hermanson, 21, of Fargo, was killed in Iraq on May 23. Prior to that, Spc. Cody Wentz, 21, of Williston, was killed in Iraq in November 2004.

Funeral arrangements are pending for Van Zoest and Mehrer. 
Thursday, June 08 2006 @ 07:05 AM EST
Contributed by: cheryl

Tragedy in Afghanistan, where members of the North Dakota National Guard have been serving since March. The Security Forces Unit of the 188th Air Defense Artillery lost two soldiers Monday in an enemy attack.

21 year old Specialist Curtis Robert Mehrer of Bismarck and 21 year old Sergeant Travis Van Zoest of Bismarck died in combat. They are the first North Dakota guardsmen to be killed in Afghanistan. 39 year old Sergeant First Class Timothy Hicks was also injured in the same incident. Hicks is being transferred to a hospital in Germany. 

Family members were notified yesterday. The Guard says the deaths were caused by an improvised explosive device or a mine that went off when the soldiers were doing investigation work. 152 soldiers have been serving in Afghanistan in the Security Forces Unit.

"We are a nation at war", says the North Dakota National Guard`s Rob Keller. "It`s a global war on terrorism. And that global war has taken the 188th to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban to try to bring peace, and do what they can in that part of the world. It is a dangerous part of the world."

Keller says the families of the soldiers who died are grieving, and says the rest of the families of the 188th Air Defense Artillery are, too.

"All those families are quite honestly on pins and needles as well," says Keller.

But the National Guard Family Support group is helping out. It says it notifies families when an deployment alert comes up.

"One of the tougher topics that we talk about is notification and that is when there is a wounded in action or a killed in action," says Jackie Huber of the National Guard Family Program.

The group does a calling tree notification. It has volunteers within the family readiness groups that let the families of the soldiers that were not injured know their soldier`s okay. It says it provides counseling for families who lost loved ones.

"Sometimes it`s just talking to families saying things are okay, you`re going to get through this. It`s a tough time right now, but tomorrow`s another day and we`ll get through it," says Huber.

The 188th was mobilized in December. The Guard says the 188th Air Defense Artillery unit is planning memorial services in Afghanistan, to allow the soldiers time to say goodbye to their fallen comrades.

Van Zoest is survived by his parents, Sheila Richter, of Bismarck, and Bernardus Van Zoest, of Dane, Wis., a stepfather, a brother and two stepbrothers. Van Zoest was engaged to be married to Keisia Austin, of Bismarck.

Van Zoest graduated from Bismarck Century High School in May 2003 and attended Bismarck State College and Minot State University from 2003 until his deployment.

He enlisted in the Guard in February 2002. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, along with several other military medals and ribbons.

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