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Celebrating Courage, Honor and Duty: A Tribute to Two Fallen Heroes of Our Village

Brian Dey remembers a second fallen hero.

On July 9, our village came together to pay tribute to Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Wyatt in what could be described as one of the finest moments in our village’s history.  I would like to include another local hero, who gave her life in much the same fashion.

The July 9th dedication of the Daniel Wyatt Memorial Ball Park was such a fitting memorial to one of our local heroes that gave his life for love of country.  From the memories of Daniel’s Commanding Officer, who stood only 400 meters away from where Daniel took his last breath, to the wonderful eulogies from our state and local leaders, the day was representative of the honor our community shows when one of our own makes the ultimate sacrifice.

As I stood in the back of the assembled crowd, and listened to the stories of his comrades and family, I was reminded again of the pain of another family that lost a child to war from Caledonia.  In the past twenty years, Caledonia has lost two remarkable individuals, whose courage, honor and duty set a great example for all generations. “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”  ~Benjamin Disraeli.

I would like to share the story of Army Sergeant Cheryl LaBeau-O’Brien, another Caledonia hero, who gave her life in honor, a little more than 20 years ago.  Cheryl grew up in Caledonia, with her father, William “Frenchy” , her mother Lois, and her two brothers; William and Leonard.  She graduated Horlick High School in 1984 and joined the Army shortly after, becoming a helicopter technician.

While stationed in Germany, she met and later married Army Sergeant Michael O’Brien.  Both were deployed to Saudi Arabia during the build up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.  On the eve of the Persian Gulf cease-fire, February 27, 1991, an Iraqi artillery shell reportedly brought down Sgt. Cheryl LaBeau-O'Brien's helicopter, killing her and 9 others.  LaBeau-O'Brien, of the 1st Aviation Battalion, was deep into Iraq, flying a ferrying mission, when the helicopter was shot down.  Army Sgt. Cheryl LaBeau-O'Brien, 24, had volunteered to serve as a machine gunner on a helicopter that was on a mission to recover the remains of fellow soldiers when she was killed in action. She was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously.

I remember sitting with “Frenchy” and Michael, several months after Cheryl’s death, telling me these details with tears in their eyes, yet pride in their hearts.  I relived that moment, listening to Daniel’s father, Dave.

We honor their lives that were filled with courage, honor and duty.  They are shining examples to us all.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.  

  -  J o h n S t e w a r t M i l l

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