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Estherville begins mourning loss of soldier

March 18, 2013
Estherville Daily News

The Estherville community is mourning the loss of Staff Sgt. Steven Blass, 27, who was one of five soldiers killed in a helicopter crash last Monday in Afghanistan.

Gene Haukoos, a retired Navy Corpsman and Estherville city councilman, serves as liaison between the community and the military.

"On behalf of the community our deepest sympathy and prayers go to the family," Haukoos said in a statement. "The people of Estherville and the surrounding area have a long history of supporting our troops, Since 9-11 We have sent our local National Guard off into harm's way three times.

"Each time the community response was overwhelming. We have packed the Readiness Center for their send off and their return home," he continued. "Now we are asking the community to show their respect for a Home Town Hero who lost his life while serving his country."

Blass is a graduate of Estherville Lincoln Central High School and Iowa Lakes Community College. He leaves behind a wife and 16-month-old son.

"We have lined Central Ave with flags out of respect of the fallen and his family. I would ask the community businesses to put a message of support in their store fronts."

Area law enforcement and veterans organizations are standing by to provide a vehicle escort.

"When the Army provides us with the official timeline for the services the governor will order flags to half-staff statewide," said Haukoos. "As the timeline of events is known to the public, I would like to see people with flags and messages of support all along the funeral route. Attend the visitation and the funeral to honor the fallen and support his family.

"I know in this time of instant information people want answers quickly," Haukoos said. "But when a member dies on active duty, especially in a war zone there are a lot of things going on that we are not aware of."

Haukoos said there are procedures that need to be followed for the identification and care of the fallen, officers to notify family, escorts, funeral home contacts, and much more.

When the military releases the information, they know that everything possible has been done to show respect and honor the fallen, while supporting the family.

"As for the area veterans' organizations, it is the their mission and their auxiliaries to support the family any way possible," Haukoos said. "We are standing by to assist the Army and the family. Once the Army and family release the information about the services, I am sure our community will respond to those needs and wishes.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," he said. "The Price of Freedom is not Free."



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