Exhibit honors Iowans killed in War on Terror

Three Greene County men included in photo display


CHURDAN — Marilyn Tilley knew that David Wisniewski’s helicopter had been shot down four years ago in Afghanistan.

She even attended a memorial service in Churdan for the former neighbor boy she remembers as a “cutie.”

But when she saw his picture staring back at her in Elk Horn earlier this year as part of the traveling “Remembering Our Fallen” photo exhibit, it hit home.

“I took one look and I said, ‘We’ve got to find some way to bring this,’ ” said Tilley, longtime librarian at the Churdan Public Library.

Without knowing if they could even afford it, the library booked the exhibit for Sept. 11.

The photo exhibit honoring more than 80 Iowans killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars opens today at the Paton-Churdan Community School, and will be on view daily from 4 to 7 p.m. through Wednesday.

A $500 grant from the Jefferson Rotary Club made it possible for it to stop in Churdan.

Produced by Bellevue University near Omaha, “Remembering Our Fallen” puts faces with the names of those who’ve died in the nation’s 13-year war on terrorism.

Unfortunately, Wisniewski isn’t the only local connection in the exhibit.

Lance Cpl. Ben Carman, of Jefferson, died on April 6, 2004, in Iraq’s dreaded Al-Anbar Province while serving with the Marines.

He was 20.

Army Capt. Matthew Nielson, of Jefferson, died in Iraq on June 29, 2011, during the waning days of the war in the city of Al-Kut.

He was 27.

“It’s a very moving exhibit,” Tilley said.

It’s also an exhibit that’s still evolving.

“We’re still adding more, unfortunately,” said Shari Minnehan, library director. “I’m afraid this one might not have an ending.”

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, a program in the high school auditorium will honor the local fallen, including those who gave their lives from Coon Rapids and Ogden.

Preceding the program, a spaghetti meal will be served in the school cafeteria from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Proceeds from the meal will be used for the expansion of the Churdan library.

Wisniewski, an Air Force captain, was 31 when he died on July 2, 2010, of injuries suffered in the crash of his HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter.

He spent part of his childhood in Churdan. His father, Chet, served as principal at Paton-Churdan in the ’90s, and they were active in the local Catholic church.

He finished high school in Moville.

“To my daughter, David was like a brother,” Tilley said.

A 2002 graduate of the Air Force Academy, his chopper — “Pedro 66” — was on a rescue operation when it came under fire.

Of the seven-member crew, five died. “Wiz” was the pilot.

“Clear back in sixth grade,” Tilley said, “he knew he wanted to fly. Some kids just know they want to do that.”

He was on his seventh deployment.

Wisniewski is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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