Remembering Army Pfc. Kenneth Zeigler

A colleague remembers Army Pfc. Kenneth Zeigler, who was killed in Baghdad when shrapnel from a roadside bomb ripped through his Humvee.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Army Private First Class Kenneth Zeigler of the 3rd Infantry Division was killed in southeast Baghdad by a roadside bomb last week. The 22-year-old from Pennsylvania was returning to his forward operating base after a routine patrol when shrapnel from the explosive device ripped into his Humvee. Three others in the vehicle were injured in the blast. Here's how one of Zeigler's closest friends in the unit remembers him.

Private First Class DOMINIC SPAHN (3rd Infantry Division): My name is Pfc. Dominic Spahn. I'm in 1-64 Bravo Company, 1st Platoon, Alpha Section of the Humvee elements. I'm 20 years old.

I knew Pfc. Zeigler since he got to the unit at Ft. Stewart. We're all fresh out of basic, you know, and--I was, like, Zeigler, huh? Just give him a hard time because he was a new Joe, and I was like, `Ziggy--yeah, we'll call you Ziggy.' He's like, `Don't call me that.' I was like, `Why not, dude?' And he's like, `It's my sister's nickname. I don't like it.' I was like, `All right, man.' Yeah, he didn't like Ziggy. We--it ended up sticking, though.

As time went on, we got to know each other better. And he was always into Metallica, you know, and I'm not a big Metallica fan, but I like a few songs. And I picked up a guitar because he plays, and he--very patient. And he sat there--the night before we got hit by the IED, we were actually working on a song he was going to teach me. He would actually place my fingers on the strings where they were supposed to go, you know, and just he'd sit there and, without words, you know, play the note and look at me, shake his head, play it again, over and over--was very patient.

He wanted tattoos when he went home, you know. He wanted `Jesus' on one forearm and `saves' on the other. And even his body wasn't changed. You know what I mean? He was just so pure and so innocent. And that's why everyone's questioning, like `Why him? You know, why wasn't it any one of us that, you know, lived a life that wasn't pure and innocent and didn't do everything they could to take care of their mom, like he'--and--I don't know.

Zeigler was a strange guy, but at the same time he was cool, you know. He looked depressed a lot, but he would laugh good, too, you know, the kind that he'd hold his belly and lean back and just crack up.

I was up on the turret that day. We were rolling down Predators, and there was a cool breeze up there. I was kicking back. And next thing I know--Boom!--you know, we were in a dust cloud. By the time we got him on the ground and started assessing his wounds, you know, it was--another truck was there, and we just got to the ...(unintelligible) as quick as we can. It was crazy, you know.

And I'm really pissed because there's--we can't do too much, you know. Like, we can't go kicking in doors because we don't have information that we need. And I'm upset at the fact that, you know, he died due to an IED, and he couldn't fight back. But, I don't know, I think the whole situation just sucks, and I hate these people that much more for it. I'm not going to treat them any different. You know what I mean? But it just makes it worse for them when they give us a situation to where we can do something, especially if, you know, we can take care of some of these guys that have been planting these roadside bombs 'cause now it's personal.

(Soundbite of acoustic instrumental version of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters")

NORRIS: Pfc. Dominic Spahn is at a forward operating base in eastern Baghdad, remembering his friend, Pfc. Kenneth Zeigler. Spahn's reflections were recorded by NPR's Eric Westervelt.

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