MORRIS - Ten years ago today, three area soldiers deployed with the Minnesota National Guard were killed in Iraq.
Staff Sergeant David Day of Morris, Sergeant Jesse Lhotka of Appleton and First Lieutenant Jason Timmerman of Tracy were serving overseas with the C Company of the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery based out of Morris.
Day, Lhotka and Timmerman were killed on Feb. 21, 2005 by an improvised explosive device (IED) while working to rescue injured troops after a Humvee in their convoy rolled over.
According to the Associate Press, eight other soldiers were wounded in the incident. At the time, the incident was the single most tragic day of any Minnesota unit to serve in Iraq.
David Day, a Morris native, graduated from Morris Area High School in 1998, then attended Alexandria Technical College's law enforcement program. While training, Day also worked for the Stevens County Sheriff's Office and the Morris Police Department. He joined the St. Louis Park Police Department in 2002 while finishing his law enforcement training in the Twin Cities, and was sworn in as a police officer in February 2004. He married his high school sweetheart, Amy Gulbrandson, shortly before Charlie Company was deployed in the fall of 2004. Charlie Company began as an artillery unit, Day served in the company's Fire Direction Center as the section chief, but the unit was reassigned to a security mission before the deployment.
Lhotka, a native of Appleton, made his home in Alexandria with his wife, Stacy, where he worked as a credit analyst. He joined the National Guard in July 1999 and was a team leader in Iraq.
Timmerman, a native of Tracy, was a computer technician at Northstar Mutual Insurance Co. He joined the National Guard in 1997, the year before he graduated from high school. Timmerman previously worked as a math teacher in Madison and at Lake Benton High School. After marrying his wife Theresa, the pair settled in Tracy.
More than 110 law enforcement and military vehicles were part of the escort for Day's casket during a funeral procession in Morris prior to services at Assumption Catholic Church on Thursday, March 3, 2005. Hundreds of people lined Atlantic Avenue and other streets in town, standing silent while the vehicles passed.
The soldiers were also honored in a memorial service for friends and fellow service members at the U.S. Embassy Chapel in Baghdad, Iraq, on Feb. 25, 2005. When Charlie Company returned to Minnesota in December 2005. More than 1,000 people attended a dedication of a memorial for the fallen soldiers outside the National Guard Armory in Morris.
Members of law enforcement from Morris and St. Louis Park organized a Memorial Scholarship Fishing Tournament in 2005 to honor Day, and that tournament was continued on by members of the Morris Police Department and Stevens County Sheriff's Office. The tenth and final tournament was held last summer.
The three soldiers have also been remembered in the community, most prominently through the annual LTD Motorcycle Memorial Tour in July. The ride was started in 2006 to honor Lhotka, Timmerman and Day. The annual ride passes through many towns in west central Minnesota. Organizers have announced that this year's 10th anniversary ride, planned for July 18, 2015, will be the last memorial tour.