32nd Military Police Company

Army Spc. Michelle M. Witmer, Age 20, of New Berlin, Wisconsin
Assigned to the Army National Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
Killed April 9 during an attack by small-arms fire and an improvised explosive device in Baghdad.

By Carrie Antlfinger
Associated Press

BROOKFIELD, Wis. — Michelle Witmer told her two sisters when she was 10 years old that she wanted to be a hero.

“She was a hero when she died,” her identical twin, Charity, told more than 600 people Wednesday night at a memorial service for the 20-year-old, who died Friday in Iraq where all three sisters served with the National Guard.

Charity Witmer told the mourners that Michelle had told her and their older sister Charity as they talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up: “Seriously, I could push someone off a bridge and save them.”

That brought chuckles from the crowd.

But tears quickly followed for many when Charity added, “It wasn’t by saving someone in a lake. She was a hero when she died.”

Major Gen. Albert Wilkening, adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard, presented Witmer’s family, of New Berlin, with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the National Defense Service Medal.

Michelle’s father and mother read from Michelle’s e-mails.

She had sent one to many people, updating them on her life. She said she was working night shifts and rarely got a day off.

Her mother, Lori, told how just a year before, Michelle was a college student and her only worries were restocking the ramen noodles.

She read an e-mail that Michelle addressed to her father, with the subject line “Daddy,” pondering how the last year had changed her perspective on life, culture, war and things worth dying for.

“She began to think of her many experiences ... and she preferred to think of them as spices that gave the story of her life a richer flavor.”

Charity, who tried hard to hold back tears, described Michelle as a klutz who loved candy.

“Michelle was a loving, empathetic woman, more wonderful than words can describe,” she said. “She loved the drama, she loved the cheese, she loved to tell stories.”

She also said her sister was at peace when she died.

“One of the last times I saw Michelle she gave me a big hug and kiss and said I love you. It was a gift from God. She was at such a good place when she left this world.”

Brig. Gen. Kerry Denson, commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, said Michelle was very proud of her contributions to the Iraqi freedom.

Two large photographs of Witmer, including one of Michelle dressed in fatigues, stood at the front of the auditorium at Elmbrook Church.

Witmer, a specialist with the 32nd Military Police Company, was the first Wisconsin National Guard soldier to die in military combat in 60 years. She was assigned to the U.S. Army military police, doing police work in Baghdad.

Her sister Rachel, 24, also served in the 32nd, which was sent overseas last May. Charity was sent to Iraq late last year as a medic with Company B of the Wisconsin Guard’s 118th Medical Battalion.

The sisters were granted leave and returned home Monday. They were still deciding whether to return to Iraq.

Gov. Jim Doyle attended the memorial service and told the state deeply respects the service and sacrifice they have given.

“We will support you and your family in whatever the future may bring,” he said.

Outside the church auditorium, scents of the large floral arrangements filled the air as mourners looked at collages of snapshots of Witmer and her family and friends.

The 2nd Platoon of her company sent an arrangement of flowers with a card that read: “Michelle, you’re always one of us in our hearts and minds.”

Statement by Maj. Gen. Albert H. Wilkening on the
death of Wisconsin Army National Guard Specialist Michelle Witmer


I am deeply saddened by the death of Specialist Michelle Witmer. This very special citizen-soldier served her nation with bravery, distinction and valor as a member of the 32nd Military Police Company of Milwaukee and Madison. My deepest sympathy goes to Michelle’s entire family and especially to her two sisters, both of them Wisconsin National Guard soldiers who were also serving on active duty in Iraq. I hope the Witmer family knows just how proud Wisconsin is of Michelle, how grateful we are for her service, and how saddened the entire Wisconsin National Guard family is for her tragic loss. I pledge to the Witmers all the support of the Wisconsin National Guard they may need during the difficult days and weeks ahead.

Specialist Michelle Witmer is a hero whose service to Wisconsin and to her nation will never be forgotten. She is the first Wisconsin National Guard soldier killed in action since the waning days of World War II, and she is the first female soldier killed in action in the 167-year history of the Wisconsin National Guard.

In tribute to Michelle Witmer I am ordering the flags at all Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities lowered to half-staff beginning Monday morning and continuing until after her funeral service.

On behalf of all 9,900 of Specialist Witmer’s fellow soldiers and airmen of Wisconsin’s National Guard, I salute this fallen hero and pray for the safe and speedy return of the 32nd Military Police Company, and the continued safety of all 400 soldiers and airmen of the Wisconsin National Guard who are still serving overseas in harm’s way.

— Major General Albert H. Wilkening

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