SSG Joseph M. Weiglein
Staff Sergeant Weiglein was a member of Alpha Company, 2-14th Infantry from mid-2005 until the time of his death in 2007. He was K.I.A along with another Soldier on 29MAY07 in Ilbu Falris, Iraq due to an I.E.D during a dismount patrol. That is the extent to which I know about what happened the day he passed away. The reason for that being is that I knew him personally, and am okay with never knowing the details about happened to him.
After 2nd Brigade returned from the 2004 to 2005 Iraq deployment, we had a lot of people coming and going into the unit. Guys were getting out, PCSing, or just switching companies. My Squad Leader from Iraq switched over from A Co. to HHC in order to be a part of the Recon Platoon. Both Team Leaders from our squad moved on, and I was made Alpha Team Leader. I was still just a Specialist (having just earned that thanks to a waiver a few months prior) and it would be awhile before I'd even be eligible to go to the Promotion Board, but I had proven myself to the Platoon and the unit during Iraq. They trusted me, and knew that it would be best for me to take over the team. It was around this time that SSG Weiglein came to the unit and took over the Squad Leader role, having just ended a stint as a Recruiter (if I am remembering correctly).
Instead of just casting aside myself and the other Team Leader due to our rank (we were both E4s) he looked to us for guidance. He knew that we both had the fresh experience of a year worth of Infantry combat under our belts and trusted us to run our teams as we saw fit. The unit was gearing up for the likelihood of another deployment and jumped right back into training just a couple of months after we got back. We had a new CO who was very "gung-ho" and decided that we were going to go out to a range and conduct a kind of "combat endurance course" that was essentially just an obstacle course with some shooting mixed in for E5s and below. The course was timed, and the winner would receive an award and of course bragging rights. And, by the way, it was during the early part of a Fort Drum winter, so naturally it was cold and all in the snow.
Up to this point, I had already reenlisted and was set to leave in just a few months, but I went out of my way to ensure that I trained up my cherries (new Privates for those who may not know) to the best of my ability. I was probably a little harder on them than I normally would have been, but I knew that they were going to have to eventually go back and fight, and I wanted them to be as prepared as they could be before I left. I busted my ass on that course and at the time that I finished, I was first overall time wise. I went back inside one of the buildings on the range to recover, and not long after I went, the other Team Leader went and beat my overall time. We were 1st and 2nd place.
The reason I mention this is because it leads into what is my fondest memory of SSG Weiglein. After myself and the other Team Leader were back inside and relaxing after our runs, SSG Weiglein came bursting into the building with a huge smile on his face. He was incredibly and genuinely proud of the fact that his two Team Leaders had set the two best times. He went around bragging about it for the rest of the day until a guy from 1st Platoon bested our score. We still finished 2nd and 3rd overall, a good showing. You could see it in his eyes that even something as simple as that was enough to make him proud. He cared about his Soldiers beyond just what was asked of him as an NCO.
I pinned E5 in January, a couple of months after that, and PCSed to Fort Benning. It wasn't long after arriving there that 2nd Brigade (and thus the 2-14th) got deployment orders to return back to Iraq. And it was in May of the following year that I learned SSG Weiglein had been killed. I had made it a morning ritual to check the casualty reports while my old unit was there.
I can't say that I knew him as well as those that had deployed with him, but in those short few months that I had the honor of being his Team Leader, I gained a huge amount of respect for him. He had a great sense of humor, was sensible, and a great leader. It's been 12 years since I last spoke to him, but I still think about him often, as I do with the other brothers who were lost in Iraq.
He forever earned his place at The Right of the Line, and I hope that some day I'll have the honor of standing next to him once more.
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I've been doing these small memorials for some time now both on Facebook and on my previous site. The purpose is to not only remember our fallen brothers from the 14th Infantry Regiment, but to show the families that we will always care and never forget.