Kenneth R. VanGiesen, 30, of Gorman Drive, Erie, formerly
of Kane, died Monday, July 18, 2011 as the result of injuries
sustained while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Born
August 3, 1980 in Kane, he was the son of Thomas A. and Susan
J. Proashas VanGiesen.
A 1999 graduate of Kane Area High School, he was a three year
letterman in football and played in the Don Raabe Big 30 Classic.
Later that year he joined the Army National Guard as a Technical
Mechanic. Ken served four tours in twelve years, having served
in Germany, twice in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. He served
1400 mobilized days in overseas deployment, being one of only
16 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen serving that level of active
duty. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant.
He was a member of the American Legion and the Loyal Order of
Moose, both in Millcreek, the American Legion Riders and various
VFW posts. He also was a member of the Kane Fish & Game Club.
Surviving in addition to his parents of Kane are his grandfather,
Rowland Proashas of Kane; his high school sweetheart Erin Sirianni
with whom he lived; his sister Amie (Joe) Gullifer and their children
Isaac and Hannah of Kane, his brother Matt (Heather) VanGiesen
and their children Courtney and Carly of Oak Harbor, Wash., Erin's
parents Frank and Sherry Sirianni of Kane, and his beloved dog
and companion, Bandit. Several aunts, uncles and cousins also
Afghanistan IED kills 3 Pa. guardsmen, wounds 5
The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Three Pennsylvania guardsmen were killed and
five others wounded earlier this week by a roadside bomb that
struck their convoy in Afghanistan, military officials said Wednesday.
The Pennsylvania National Guard identified the slain soldiers
as Sgt. Edward Koehler, 47, of Lebanon, Sgt. Brian Mowery, 49,
of Halifax, and Staff Sgt. Kenneth VanGiesen, 30, of Kane. All
three will be posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. "This tragic
incident is a stark reminder of the dangers our troops face on
a daily basis for the cause of freedom," Gov. Tom Corbett said
in a statement. "We owe them our respect, our support and our
gratitude." All three men were riding in the same vehicle when
the improvised explosive device detonated near Bagram, officials
said. The other soldiers wounded did not sustain life-threatening
injuries. The deaths bring the total number of Pennsylvania National
Guard members killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to 39,
according to the Guard. "The impact of the tragic loss of our
three soldiers is felt throughout the entire Pennsylvania National
Guard," Pennsylvania's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig,
said in a statement. "We will honor their service by caring for
their families left behind, and by increasing our determination
to accomplish the mission they set out to do."
Koehler previously served in the Marines Corps from 1982-88 and
joined the National Guard in 1997, military officials said. Koehler
was a bugler during his time in the Marines and took pride in
playing "Taps" at funerals for fallen service members, Craig said.
"Unfortunately it is now our solemn duty to play 'Taps' for him,"
In a 2005 interview with The Kane Republican, VanGiesen said he
was proud to join the National Guard, like his father before him.
"If I had it to do over again, I still would do it," he told the
newspaper. VanGiesen was living in Erie, where he was working
with the National Guard, the newspaper reported. He had been deployed
to Iraq twice and was assigned to the 131st Transportation Company,
213th Area Support Group for this mission because of his mechanical
skills. According to the Guard, VanGiesen was on his fourth active-duty
tour, having previously served in Germany from 2002 to 2003, in
Iraq from 2005 to 2006 with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
and 2009 with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "Kenneth VanGiesen
was an enthusiastic soldier who never shied away from the call
to duty," Craig said. "During his 12 years in the National Guard,
VanGiesen served more than four total years on active duty. His
selfless dedication to serving our country will be sorely missed."
Mowery, whose family released a statement requesting privacy,
was previously a member of the Marine Corps Reserves from 1979-85,
then joined the National Guard in 2000. He previously served in
Kosovo. "Brian Mowery exemplified what it means to be a noncommissioned
officer and served as an example to the younger soldiers around
him," Craig said. "He demonstrated leadership potential far above
his rank and never hesitated to assume responsibility, no matter
how big the challenge." Koehler's family released a statement
thanking well-wishers for their support. "Continue to pray for
all of our troops and their safety," the statement said. "Their
daily sacrifices must not go unnoticed."