Steven Drees

PFC Steven T. Drees- November 2009 Shipment Honoree

Peshtigo soldier Steven Drees remembered

By Paul Srubas
Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette
Steven Drees
Steven Drees

PESHTIGO — Friends and well-wishers carrying candles and waving flags lined the streets of Peshtigo Monday night to honor a 19-year-old soldier who died Sunday as a result of injuries he sustained in Afghanistan.

Army Pvt. Steven Drees’ family found out Wednesday morning that he had been shot in the head when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire and a grenade launcher in Konar Province, Afghanistan, said Barb Bayer of Peshtigo, Drees’ cousin.

His parents, Dawn Bayer and Paul Drees, and his twin brother, Charlie, were present when Drees died Sunday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, Barb Bayer said. He had been kept alive until his organs could be harvested for donation, and family members learned this weekend that Drees’ organs may have saved the lives of three people, Bayer said.

Drees’ parents and brother arrived in Peshtigo about 9:30 p.m. Monday. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the home at 281 S. Peck Ave. and along the street to welcome them. Candles on the street and a police escort guided the family to their flag-covered yard.

High school friends of Drees said they spent the past four days preparing for the memorial. “We wanted it to be happy,” said James Meeks, 17, a high school friend. “Before Steve left, he told everyone that if anything happened to him he wanted them to be proud, not sad.”

The mourners seemed to express their reactions in different tones. Some joked about past memories, others expressed anger toward the insurgency, and some just wept.

One friend, Josiah Schafer, said the loss has motivated him even more to join the Army.

“I know he would be proud and supportive of me,” Schafer said. “If I die, I hope I have the same support as Steve did.”

Funeral plans won’t be made until the family learns when the Army plans to release the body and transport it home, Bayer said. She said the family is very close-knit, and that Drees had never been away from home for long before he enlisted in the Army on July 25, 2008.

“When he went to basic training, he wrote home every day,” Bayer said. “He always wrote poems. It kept him going through the training.

Steven Drees
PFC Steven T. Drees

Bayer is Drees’ mother’s cousin, but she was always “Auntie Barb” to Drees, she said. She described Steven as a playful young man — “a child at heart” — who loved children. As a boy, he played baseball, and he lettered in both football and basketball in high school, she said.

Drees’ high school friends all solicited area businesses for donations for the candles and flags used in Monday night’s event, Bayer said.

“The kids have been wonderful,” she said. “Some of the family members wouldn’t have made it through without the kids here supporting them.”

The kids were planning to have T-shirts and rubber bracelets made in Drees’ honor, for the funeral, and plans are under way for a parade for when his body is returned to Peshtigo, she said.

John Bayer, Drees’ uncle, said Drees was very dedicated to the Army.

“He did what he wanted to do, and he was proud of what he was doing,” Bayer said of his nephew.

Drees was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

He joined the Army July 25, 2008, and was deployed May 26, on his 19th birthday.

Drees and his girlfriend from Silver Spring, Colo., were expecting their first child, John Bayer said.

Since Drees’ enlistment, he has received the Army Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the following medals: National Defense Service, Global War on Terrorism Service, Army Good Conduct, Purple Heart and Bronze Star, according to the Public Affairs office at Fort Carson.

Flags fly at half-staff for Drees

The Associated Press

PESHTIGO, Wis. — Flags at Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities throughout the state will fly at half-staff in honor of a Peshtigo soldier killed in Afghanistan.

The state Department of Military Affairs announced the order honoring 19-year-old Army Pvt. Steven Drees. He was injured June 24 in an attack that involved small-arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He died four days later.

His funeral is scheduled Tuesday at Peshtigo High School where he graduated last year.

Story, photos, video: Peshtigo gives fallen soldier Pvt. Steven Drees a final farewell

By Malavika Jagannathan, Green Bay Press Gazette
Final Farewell
Final Farewell

PESHTIGO — More than a thousand people crammed into the gym at Peshtigo Middle/High School on Tuesday evening for a funeral service for fallen Peshtigo soldier Pvt. Steven Drees. It followed a daylong visitation that brought most of the community to the doors of the school that Drees graduated from.

Tears flowed from family and friends in attendance as Drees’ casket was closed before

But they couldn’t help but smile as speakers recalled the 19-year-old’s fondness for making people laugh, something he continued to do on the day of his final mission when he placed blue bunny ears over his Army-issued helmet.

Drees died June 28 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained June 24 in Konar Province, Afghanistan. Insurgents attacked his Army unit using small arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Liz Peterson, 19, said her favorite part of Tuesday’s service was the mention of the bond Steven had with twin brother Charlie.

“I thought it was beautiful,” said Peterson, who was good friends with Drees. “He wanted to serve our country so bad. He went out fighting.”

A basketball player in high school, Drees was remembered by his coach during the service as a devoted team player who wasn’t embarrassed to give his mom a hug or kiss before a game.

“A special kid,” the coach added.

Drees joined the Army on July 25, 2008, and was deployed to Afghanistan May 26, which was his 19th birthday. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

A representative from the U.S. Army presented the family with Drees’ medals — a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a medal for good conduct. He also posthumously earned a promotion. The funeral service was webcast to his unit in Afghanistan.

Early Tuesday morning, Patriot Guard Riders escorted Drees’ casket from Berth & Rosenthal Funeral Home to the high school. The riders are a volunteer group, including veterans, who act as escorts at military funerals.

Throughout the day, visitors stopped by the school, where Drees’ car — a yellow coupe now emblazoned with the flag and “In Memory of Steven Drees” — and another car he’d wanted to drive were displayed out front.

Three poems written by Drees lined the hallway leading up to the gymnasium, where his casket was surrounded by bouquets of flowers donated by well-wishers. Many visitors walked out with a decal showing Drees’ face, the American flag and the words “Death before Dishonor.”

Some of those who visited the high school, like 20-year-old Breanna Kaster of Peshtigo, knew Drees and tearfully recalled his “wide-eyed, ear-to-ear smile.”

Veterans like Allen R. Urbaniak, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8813, came to show support for the family and Drees’ service.

“Showing the respect that the veterans deserve is one of the few things we can do,” Urbaniak said. Members of the VFW Post, American Legion posts and other veterans were present at the visitation and the funeral service.

Drees’ immediate family declined to talk to the media but invited attendees to a local park after the service for food and drinks.

“This is so far the worst day,” said a woman who chose not to be identified, wearing a T-shirt saying, “Proud Army Aunt.”

“Before, you could think it’s just a mistake. Now it’s a reality. He was too young.”

A memorial fund for Drees has been set up at Peshtigo National Bank. The private family burial is scheduled for today at Riverside Cemetery

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