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Army Cpl. Stephen D. Shannon

Died January 31, 2007 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom


21, of Guttenberg, Iowa; assigned to the 397th Engineer Battalion, Wausau, Wis.; died Jan. 31, in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by a rocket during combat operations Jan. 30 in Ramadi.

Soldier from Guttenberg killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Guttenberg man killed in combat in Iraq was unique, “one of a kind” from the first day of his life, his mother said Friday.

Army Reserve Cpl. Stephen D. Shannon was “by no means a saint,” his mother Joan Shannon said Friday, “but definitely a hero.”

Shannon, 21, was killed Wednesday in Iraq. The military confirmed his death for the first time on Friday, and his family, including his mother, father and three siblings, gathered at the family’s rural Guttenberg home for a press conference to talk about his life.

Shannon was a combat engineer with the C Company, 397th Engineer Battalion, in Wausau, Wis. The unit arrived in Iraq in September, with a mission to clear roadside bombs. Shannon was performing those duties when the armored vehicle he was driving was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade on the driver’s side, killing him.

His last trip home came in late September. He spent four days in Guttenberg, but they went by fast, Joan Shannon said.

“He was hardly ever at home, because he was out with his many friends all the time,” she said.

Stephen was a popular student at Clayton Ridge High School in Guttenberg, where he graduated in 2003. He served as president of his junior class and was a musician and an athlete, before going on to the University of Northern Iowa, eventually majoring in criminology.

His final call home to his family was about a week ago, the Shannon’s said, and it was unremarkable. It was a routine call — Stephen faithfully called home each week and “he sounded good,” his mother said.

“He had found his purpose. He liked what he was doing,” she said.

Stephen’s sister, Kathleen Shannon, 19, recently joined the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps. She wants to become an army nurse, and said she is proud of her brother.

“I saw what he had become. I also wanted him to have to salute me when I became an officer,” she said.

Shannon’s body is expected to return to Guttenberg next week, and the family plans to have a viewing and funeral Mass. Joan Shannon said the public will be welcome.

“This kid was pretty special,” she said. “If this is his 15 minutes of fame and people want to be a part of it, I have no restrictions.”


800 come to funeral Mass for ‘a special kid’ from Guttenberg

By Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

GUTTENBERG, Iowa. — Army Reserve Cpl. Stephen Shannon, who died last week in Iraq, chose an appropriate confirmation name in 2001, said Rev. Jerome Hanus, archbishop of Dubuque.

St. Francis of Assisi, known for gentleness and respect for others, also had a calling to improve understanding between Christians and Muslims, Hanus said at Shannon’s funeral Mass on Friday.

“You can imagine how many times Stephen Shannon sought to imitate his patron,” Hanus told about 800 people gathered in St. Mary’s Catholic Church and in a nearby school auditorium, where many watched on a television monitor, for the nearly two-hour Mass.

Shannon, 21, died Jan. 31 from wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by a rocket during combat operations a day earlier in Ramadi. He was the 51st person with Iowa ties to have died in Iraq or Afghanistan since March 2003.

Shannon was a combat engineer with Company C of the 397th Engineer Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Wausau, Wis. The unit had cleared more than 5,000 explosive devices since it arrived in Iraq in September, Maj. Gen. Robert Pollmann said.

Pollmann presented Shannon’s parents, Dan and Joan, with their son’s military awards, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Shannon’s military service was likely inspired by relatives who were in the Air Force and Marines, Pollmann said.

“Now, Stephen’s sister, Kathleen, is continuing that service by joining the Iowa National Guard, where she will serve as a nurse,” he said.

Shannon, the oldest of five children, graduated in 2003 from Clayton Ridge High School in Guttenberg, where he had been junior class president and involved in sports and band. His parents own the Guttenberg Pharmacy.

Shannon’s death rocked the community of 2,000 on the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa, residents said.

“He was a special kid,” said Don Backhaus, whose son, David, graduated with Shannon. The teens and their friends had many adventures, including exploring abandoned houses, he said.

Shannon’s smile, said to light up a room, could be seen in pictures posted on a Facebook.com page made in memory of him. Close to 200 people wrote tributes to Shannon, who was described as “a brother, a best friend and an angel in disguise.”

After high school, Shannon attended the University of Northern Iowa, where he joined the ROTC. He initially studied pre-medicine, then switched to a law enforcement major. He left for military duty in Iraq last fall.

Shannon was buried Friday at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Guttenberg. As the seven-member honor guard fired three rounds of shots into the cold air, the sound echoed off the river bluffs that surround the soldier’s grave.


Mourners honor Shannon’s deeds in Iraq

The Associated Press

GUTTENBERG, Iowa — Stephen Shannon was a lifesaver, a 21-year-old Army corporal tasked with clearing roadside bombs while putting his own life at risk.

Shannon was a combat engineer with C Company, 397th Engineer Battalion, based in Wausau, Wis. He was sent to Iraq five months ago, and since then his unit had cleared about 5,000 explosives that otherwise could have killed countless others.

That mission cost him his life.

On Feb. 9, mourners in this Mississippi River town buried their hometown hero, mourning his death but honoring his deeds.

“You can imagine how many lives he saved,” Maj. Gen. Robert Pollmann said at Shannon’s funeral.

Shannon died Jan. 31 in Iraq from wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by a rocket while he was clearing bombs a day earlier in Balad.

At his funeral service, family and friends remembered him as a funny, fun-loving, charismatic leader.

“It is with tremendous pride that we bury Stephen today,” said the soldier’s uncle, James Gastineau of Marion. He was “greatly loved in this community.”

As Shannon’s casket moved slowly up the center aisle of the church, the only sounds were muffled sobs and a bell tolling slowly outside.

Pollmann presented Shannon’s parents with their son’s awards, including a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal.

President Bush wrote a letter to the soldier’s family, offering his condolences. “Stephen’s noble service in Operation Iraqi Freedom has helped to preserve the security of our homeland and the freedoms America holds dear,” Bush wrote.

After the service, the slow funeral procession wound its way to Mount Olivet Cemetery, while knots of people stood shivering along the route, holding American flags in the single-digit temperatures.

At the graveside, in the midst of snow-covered tombstones, Shannon’s extended family was surrounded by hundreds of friends and members of the military as a rifle brigade fired volleys that echoed across the cemetery.

“He died for a cause he believed in, defending our freedom and values,” said Pollmann, who serves on the Army’s 88th Regional Readiness Command.

Shannon was the oldest of five children. He graduated in 2003 from Clayton Ridge High School, where he had been junior class president and involved in sports and band.

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