Colorado Loses 'Best and Brightest' in Iraq

Capt. Ian Weikel has been described as one of the best and brightest of Colorado Springs. Weikel was quarterback of his high school football team, a West Point graduate and a devoted Christian. Weikel, 31, was killed by an IED in Iraq on April 18.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Ian Weikel grew up just outside the gates of the Army base in Fort Carson, Colorado. He led a high school full of soldier's sons and daughters as student body president and is quarter back of the football team. An A student, he went on to graduate from West Point.

Late last month Captain Ian P Weikel was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. For member station KRCC in Colorado Springs Eric Whitney has this remembrance.

ERIC WHITNEY: A line of about 200 Harley Davidson motorcycles interrupted the afternoon commute in a comfortable suburb of Colorado Spring the other day.

The Patriot Guard Riders were massing in front of a church to shield the Weikel family with a phalanx of American flags from any possible protests or disruption.

Inside the large Evangelical church about 1,000 people sang lively songs and said goodbye to Captain Ian Weikel, age 31. His wife held their 18monthold son in her arms.

The friends and family who knew Ian from church, who say him off to West Point, who pointed him out as a role model for their own children sang and wept together and shared stories.

Mike Maiurro was a longtime friend who coached and taught Ian in high school. He said he probably learned more from Ian than he taught him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRUMPET PLAYING)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MIKE MAIURRO: Ian often had this funny little quirky smile, kind of like he knew something we didn't know.

WHITNEY: Ian's younger brother Chad Weikel remembered him as always willing to sacrifice for others like the time he threw himself in front of rival football team's opposing runner in high school, saving the game but giving himself a concussion in the process.

CHAD WEIKEL: I go over and I celebrate with my half-dazed big brother. The paper comes out the next day and Ian goes ballistic because it gives me the credit for the third and fourth down -

I'll always remember Ian laying his body on the line to stop that kid at the goal line just like I'll always remember Ian laying down his life for the soldiers and laying his life down so that his family and my family and families around the world could have the chance to live in freedom.

The ceremony honoring Ian was an upbeat as it was somber. Friends and family celebrated Ian's ascent to heaven as much as they mourned his loss. Rocking contemporary Christian music played as a slide show of Ian's life flashed by on twin screens above the altar.

Ian's father recounted the end of a road trip with Ian when he was in college.

(father of Ian Weikel):

We turned off the car and looked at each other. We got out and just hugged and told each other how much we loved each other. It was a time I'll never forget.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF CLAPPING)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WHITNEY: After the hometown celebration of his life, Captain Ian P. Weikel was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney in Colorado Springs.

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