MITCHELL, SD (KELO) – A bridge over Highway 38 on the outskirts of Mitchell will now be known as the SSGT Gregory Wagner Memorial Bridge. It is part of the State’s Fallen Heroes Bridge dedication program, which is named after the South Dakota Bridges who died in active service.
Friends, family, students and current and former members of the South Dakota National Guard came to pay their respects to Greg Wagner in a special ceremony at the Hanson High School gymnasium in his hometown of Alexandria. Wagner was killed by an explosive device in a Baghdad neighborhood in 2006. During the rally, Jimmy Webber, a family friend and country music recording artist, paid tribute with songs, including God Bless the USA .
In 2006, Senator John Thune spoke at Greg Wagner’s funeral at Corn Palace. Today he came to Alexandria telling the crowd that Greg was a son of the prairie who gave his life for our freedom.
“He was ready to answer that call and serve his country and he paid the ultimate price and today we honor him and say how grateful we are,” Thune said.
Greg’s commanding officer at the time of his death wanted everyone in the crowd and anyone crossing the Highway 38 bridge to know what kind of person Greg Wagner was. Col. Phil Stiles says he lost his temper that day and directed his anger at the local Iraqis, then noticed a scared little boy.
“And I stopped, and I realized then that was not the path Greg Wagner would have taken. Staff Sergeant Wagner wouldn’t have done what I was doing, so I stopped reorienting myself and knelt down next to this boy and told him it was going to be okay, ”said the Colonel Stiles.
Dozens of Charlie Battery members who served alongside Greg attended the rally. They watched with the family the unveiling of the road sign that will be placed on the bridge over the James River.
Greg’s brother Dan says the sign and recognition means a lot not just to his family, but to all veterans.
“Tom, it’s been 15 years or more now and you know we wonder as a family, is it getting better and you know it still hurts, there are times when it’s cooler than ever, but if we keep remembering the good things and doing it because we want to keep his memory alive and that of all veterans, it becomes a little easier, but it means so much, ”Dan said.
Veteran and musician Jimmy Weber has promised Greg Wagner’s mother that he will write a song dedicated to Greg and other veterans. Here is a link to this video called “God is near”