UPDATE: The Dedication Ceremony for the Danial Wyatt Memorial Ball Park will be held at 1 p.m. July 9 at Crawford Park, 5051 Chester Lane.
In some ways, Daniel Wyatt grew up just like any other kid in Caledonia.
But for those who knew him and even for those who didn’t know him, Lance Cpl. Daniel Wyatt died a hero in 2004 when he was killed while serving in Iraq as a Marine Corps Reservist.
That is the reason why Tom Weatherston, a Village Board member, felt compelled to honor Daniel’s service.
Honoring a Life of Service
Last month, the Village Board approved a resolution to name the concession stand and the baseball diamond area the “Lance Corporal Daniel Wyatt Memorial Ball Diamond” at Crawford Park. The park is located at 5199 Chester Lane. A flagpole will also be erected and a plaque will be at the base of the flagpole.
Weatherston said naming the area was important to him because he served in the military during the Vietnam War and he feels that all servicemen are brothers.
“It’s important to honor a Caledonia native who lost his life in service to his country,” Weatherston said.
Daniel’s father, David Wyatt, wishes he wasn’t in the position of having to have his son memorialized. And he feels strongly that his son didn’t give his life, it was taken from him.
“He (Daniel) was out on foot patrol and there were a bunch of Marines spread out doing patrol and someone had a garage door opener or something that exploded a command detonated IED (improvised explosive devise),” David said. “For some reason, they picked him. He died instantly. He felt no pain…. I’ve always been sort of grateful for that.”
Who was Daniel Wyatt?
Despite the extraordinary circumstances that surround Daniel’s death, David said his son was an average kid. Daniel was quiet and serious-minded, but he often excelled in trivia with history questions. He went to grade school at St. Rita’s, graduated from Horlick High School, and grew up on a hobby farm raising chickens and turkeys.
David said he loves the idea of having a flagpole at the ball diamond. He helped to incorporate the Caledonia Baseball/Softball League. And to this day, David jokes that Daniel was really never on a winning team, but then again being on the team really wasn’t about winning in the first place, he said.
When Daniel joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 2001, David started seeing changes in his son after he completed 12-weeks of boot camp. Daniel’s physical appearance had changed. He addressed people with a ‘yes sir’ or a ‘yes mam.’ And he enjoyed the unique camaraderie of being in the military. Daniel often invited people from his unit to stay at David’s house so they didn’t have to travel so far back home during training.
“It would be 9 o’clock at night and I’d have 12 Marines in my house eating us out of house and home, and drinking all of my liquor -- I loved it,” David said.
David also recalls Daniel’s physical strength. After he got out of boot camp and returned home on leave, David realized that something wasn’t right with Daniel. He took him to the emergency room and the doctor said Daniel had double pneumonia.
“The doctor said that if he wasn’t in such great physical shape, he would have admitted him to the hospital. Instead, he gave him some antibiotics and sent him home,” David said. “And the doctor believed that he had had it most of the way through boot camp. “
Daniel told David that he knew he didn’t feel well, but he wasn’t going to do sick call during boot camp. Sure he knew they’d take care of him, but then he would have had to be recycled into another 12-week camp.
“He was a tough kid and I get a little emotional thinking about that,” David said.
A father's humbling moment
David also gets overwhelmed when he thinks about Daniel’s memorial. He thinks it’s wonderful that the community would do that for his son.
In the resolution, the Village Board said they would pitch in $6,000 if the group didn’t receive enough money. But as it turns out, they won’t need it.
Money has been coming in from all over the country, including people David knows, people that knew Daniel, local veterans groups, and people who didn’t know Daniel.
“I’m just humbled,” he said. “And I’m glad that no taxpayer money will be used.”
To make a donation to the Daniel Wyatt Memorial Fund, you can send a check or money order to Karie Torkilsen, Village of Caledonia, 6922 Nicholson Road.