We Honor and Remember:
SSgt. Joseph M. Weiglein
Hometown: Audubon, New Jersey, U.S.
Age: 31 years old
Died: May 29, 2007 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unit: Army, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
Birth: Jun. 6, 1975, Voorhees, New Jersey, USA
Staff Sgt. Weiglein of Audubon, NJ. had been in the Army for 12 years. He had moved around a lot, South Korea, Kansas, Kuwait, Tennessee and Georgia. His last assignment was as an infantry staff sergeant, based with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. Before moving to Fort Drum, he was working as a recruiter, but he longed to return to the regular infantry.
Before he was a sergeant in Iraq, he was a small town kid. He was a Boy Scout, a soccer player, and a fisherman. The Army gave Joe a sense of purpose. He was very proud of his mission. Joe made a special stop at Haviland Avenue Elementary where he went as a youngster before going back to Iraq. The students had adopted him and his unit. He patiently fielded questions from 256 curious young minds. As a die hard Eagles fan he attended the Eagles-Giants playoff game when he was last home in January.
His military awards include the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters.
Joseph and his wife, Jennifer, had been married for 4 1/2 years. He was 31.
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: Sec 60 Site 8634
In January, students at Haviland Avenue Elementary School in the Camden County borough of Audubon waved hundreds of tiny American flags and let out a thunderous cheer as Staff Sergeant Joseph Michael Weiglein entered the auditorium to talk to them about life in the Army.
For months, the kids had been sending letters and packages to Weiglein, who grew up just two blocks from the school and was visiting them during a 15-day hiatus in his yearlong stint in Iraq.
Weiglein answered scores of questions, then showed the kids photos of members of his unit seated beneath the Christmas decorations the students had made for them.
"It was thunderous, it was absolutely thunderous," Principal Carleene Slowik said of the ovation. "He promised to come back and apologized that his men couldn't write as often as they wanted."
Late Tuesday, the news hit and spread like a flash across the town of 9,000 -- from the house of Weiglein's parents to their neighbors, across the bleachers at the Little League field and down into the dugouts: Weiglein had been killed in Iraq.
"Joe was our soldier," Slowik said yesterday. "This made it personal. There's a lot of hugging going on. A lot of sad kids."
The Department of Defense said Weiglein, 31, was one of two soldiers killed by a bomb while they were on foot patrol in Ilbu Falris. The other man was identified as Sergeant Richard V. Correa, 25, of Honolulu.
Weiglein is the 74th service member with ties to New Jersey to be killed in Iraq. He was on his second tour.
Weiglein lived with his wife, Jennifer, near Fort Drum, New York, where he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.
Yesterday, the lawn of Weiglein's parents' home, a corner house in the leafy 1.5-square-mile town near Cherry Hill, was festooned with two dozen American flags.
"We are all proud of Joey," his sister, Kate Albanese, said as she stood on the front porch. "He believed in what he was doing, so we believed in him."
Weiglein was a 1994 graduate of Audubon High School, where he played soccer. District Superintendent Donald Borden, who was a history teacher at the school when Weiglein attended, called him "the boy next door."
"Just a great kid," Borden said. "Appropriate, responsible, diligent, always a smile on his face."
Weiglein entered the Army the year after graduation, eventually deciding to make it his career.
He served one year in Korea, then moved to Fort Riley in Kansas, where he met his future wife. The couple moved to Tennessee, and he spent the next five years there working as a recruiter. When the war in Iraq started, he decided to rejoin the infantry, Albanese said.
"He just didn't feel right once the war had started and he was recruiting people and sending them over and wasn't there to fight himself," she said. "He knew that he would definitely be deployed."
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