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

Luke C Wullenwaber

Luke C Wullenwaber

Lewiston, Idaho

November 16, 2004

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
24 Army 1st Lt

1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division

Camp Greaves, Korea

Died in Khaladiyah, Iraq, when he was conducting a security mission and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle.

From Mrs. W 01/25/05:

Obituary by Luke's father.

Obituary for Cpt. Luke C. Wullenwaber

Captain Luke C. Wullenwaber, the Executive Officer (XO) of Company A, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, was killed in action on November 16, 2004, in Khaladiyah, Iraq, four weeks shy of his 25th birthday. Captain Wullenwaber had volunteered for a security mission to give an enlisted man the day off. A violent explosion detonated by a homicide bomber in a civilian car did its work. 

Described by some men as the toughest guy they ever knew, Luke was intelligent, kind, of the highest integrity, and capable of great intensity. And he was exceedingly funny. His family and friends basked in his devotion. With these people he exuded warmth. He was strong in every way: For example, while in junior high and high school he spontaneously and genuinely showed affection to his mom in public. Similarly, he honored, loved and trusted his dad: they were in many ways closest friends. This inestimable gift was given to his family for a bit more than 9,000 days by the merciful and compassionate God of the Bible. 

Luke moved to Lewiston from Moscow with his family in 1986 at six years old. He attended Shiloh School for several years and entered Jenifer Junior High in 8th grade. In 9th grade, JJH honored him as "Freshman of the Year." That year he played football, was an honor roll student, and was selected for the Babe Ruth All-Star Team. He also got his first deer in 9th grade. The summer thereafter he flew in on a puddle-jumper with his 7th grade brother and a neighbor to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and hiked out seventy miles over five days. That summer Luke and his dad visited battlefields and historic sites in Virginia, Gettysburg and Washington, D.C. Later, one of Luke's high school teachers said that Luke had the most comprehensive grasp of American history of any high school student she had ever known. 

At Lewiston high school (LHS) Luke was on the honor roll and he achieved a cumulative 3.7 GPA. In 11th grade he played JV football ("Most Valuable Defensive Back") and joined the varsity for the play-offs and the state championship; he was a lawyer on the LHS Mock Trial team (Regional Champs and 4th at State); he received the UI Alumni "Idaho Top Scholar" Award; he was inducted into the National Honor Society; and he was nominated for the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law and the Constitution. He also weight-lifted, hunted, backpacked, partially rebuilt a 1972 Jeep, worked occasionally in a law office, and regularly hugged his mom. 

In 12th grade Luke was busier still: he was elected President of the LHS Chapter of the National Honor Society; he took several higher level or Advanced Placement classes; he starred on the varsity football team (LHS Defensive Lineman of the Year; All North Idaho 2d Team [at 150 lbs. wringing wet]; KLEW Prep Athlete of the Week); he excelled as a lawyer on the LHS Mock Trial team; and he kept working on that 1972 Jeep (he wasn't able to finish this in HS). He applied to and was accepted by the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). 

Luke's cadet years at VMI were intense. (One saying at VMI is "High school hero, VMI zero.") During Luke's freshman ("Rat") year he lived in the "Old Barracks" whose walls still hold a few cannon balls from an 1864 federal attack. Stonewall Jackson's classroom from the 1850s was located beneath Luke's room. During Luke's sophomore and junior years he served on the Cadre (a select group of Cadets that oversees and administers military training at VMI), first as a corporal and later as a sergeant. As a junior and senior he served on the Rat Disciplinary Committee (VP his senior year) and he served as guidon bearer for Echo Company his senior year. 

After his freshman year at VMI Luke completed the Army Basic Combat Training Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was appointed the Platoon Guide with responsibility for more than forty-five men. As such, he lead and counseled men many years his senior. This was his first experience in being responsible for problems of other men every day from the time he woke up until the time he fell asleep. Also, when any of his men screwed up, the drill sergeants "scuffed up" Luke. 

During his sophomore year Luke participated on VMI's Ranger Challenge Team that defeated teams from seventeen other colleges. The competition included all matters relating to combat. In the middle of Luke's sophomore year at VMI the Army awarded him a generous scholarship for the remainder of his college studies.

After his sophomore year at VMI Luke completed the Special Forces Combat Diver course at Key West, Florida. This course has been described as "the most physically demanding school the military has to offer." Luke was the first undergraduate in VMI's history to pass this rigorous Underwater Combat course while an undergraduate. He was also awarded the Army's Certificate of Achievement at the end of his junior year by scoring a "300" on the Army Physical Fitness Test. 

After his junior year the VMI International Studies Department honored Luke by sending him to Thailand for two weeks as VMI's representative to Thai military schools. Also after his junior year Luke completed the U.S. Army ROTC Advanced Camp at Fort Lewis, Washington (he received the Platoon Leadership Award). Separately, he was awarded the title of Distinguished Military Student by the Army for his leadership, high moral character, academic achievement and exceptional aptitude. The Army featured his photograph in a national ad for the ROTC. 

At the beginning of Luke's senior year, he and about a dozen other seniors honored VMI's past by duplicating the three day eighty-mile march the Corps went on in 1864 before entering the last major battle of the civil war fought in the Shenandoah Valley. 

Luke graduated in 2002 with academic honors from VMI and also was a Distinguished Military Graduate. During his junior and senior years at VMI he was included in The Nationals Dean's List, an honor reputedly attained by only one-half of 1% of American college students. 

In the spring of 2002, the Army gave Luke his choice of assignment upon graduation: he chose the DMZ in Korea, because it was then the "hottest" or most dangerous spot in the world. The decision to invade Iraq was announced many months later. But first came additional training at Fort Benning, Georgia: the Infantry Officer Basic Course (selected to the Commandant's List); the daunting Ranger Course; the Infantry Mortar Leader Course (selected to the Commandant's List); and the Airborne Course. 

In Korea Luke was assigned as a Platoon Leader of an Air Assault Rifle Platoon in the 506th Regiment (the "Band of Brothers" regiment) at Camp Greaves, the most forward deployed light infantry battalion in the U.S. Army. The North Korean flag is visible in the distance. The Army placed more than thirty-nine soldiers and more than $250,000.00 worth of equipment under Luke's responsibility. His soldiers loved him. Within four months he was rated as the best platoon leader in the Company and the Army promoted him, ahead of several of his peers with greater longevity, to the position of Company XO with responsibility for about one hundred fifty men and some millions of dollars of equipment. His Officer Evaluation Report (OER) from that time stated "He possesses natural leadership qualities and presence . . . and this confidence emanates throughout his unit"; and that his resolve "marks him as a warrior who understands the importance of his mission, his weapons, and most importantly, his men. He has been a stellar performer who has made a tremendously positive impact on his platoon and the company." His OER stated that "Soldiers deserve his leadership." On Luke's promotion to Company XO, the 1st Sgt. in the platoon he was leaving - - a man approximately twelve years Luke's senior - - presented Luke with a plaque that included the following language: "Four months is not a long time, but it was enough. Your men respect you and are willing to commit their lives to your leadership and that is the most we can ask of them. When you command a company, I'll gladly be your 1SG." 

After serving more than a year in Korea, the Army redeployed Luke, with the Second Infantry Division, to the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, between Ramadi and Fallujah. Luke believed an officer should lead by example and therefore he often left his XO quarters and volunteered to serve on missions in place of or alongside "his" soldiers. This is what he was doing the morning the homicide bomber approached Luke's security position. 

In Iraq, the Army awarded Luke the Purple Heart; the Bronze Star; and the Meritorious Service Medal ("Cpt. Wullenwaber's duty performance has been exceptional and a model for all others to emulate. He performed superbly in all aspects of his military duties as an Infantry Officer. His attention to detail and desire to excel were well known throughout the Brigade Combat Team. Cpt. Wullenwaber's unwavering dedication, selfless service, professionalism, and outstanding performance of duty left an indelible impression on the Soldiers and reflect great credit upon himself . . ."). 

An east coast memorial service was held for Luke in Alexandria, Virginia, at historic Christ Church on December 6, 2004. [George Washington worshiped there; Robert E. Lee worshiped there; and Winston Churchill attended services there with FDR shortly after Pearl Harbor.]

Luke was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on December 7, 2004, with full military honors, a horse-drawn caisson carrying Luke's flag-draped casket to the grave. While this burial service at Arlington did not hold a candle to one moment with Luke, it nonetheless was magnificent: fitting, profound, moving, powerful. (Section 60, Plot #8081)

A west coast memorial service for Luke will be held on Friday, January 14, 2005, at the Nazarene Church, 1400 East 7th, Moscow, Idaho, at 2:00 p.m. (PST). (www.moscownaz.org) In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Cpt. Luke C. Wullenwaber Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Twin River National Bank, 507 G Street, Lewiston, Idaho 83501.

Luke's family is permanently rent by his death but it is also simultaneously buoyed by the goodness and mercy of the God of the Bible - a manifest miracle defying merely human understanding. Additionally, Luke's family warmly appreciates the generous outpouring of affection for Luke from literally all over the nation and beyond.

Luke C Wullenwaber

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