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Lance Koenig laid to rest

CARRINGTON, N.D. --Family, friends, classmates and community members gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church Thursday to celebrate the life of a man who lived in service to God, country, family and freedom, said the Rev. Bruce Vold.

Koenig with family

CARRINGTON, N.D. --Family, friends, classmates and community members gathered at Trinity Lutheran Church Thursday to celebrate the life of a man who lived in service to God, country, family and freedom, said the Rev. Bruce Vold.

An estimated 700 people attended the funeral of Staff Sgt. Lance Koenig in his hometown. Following the service, the closed, flag-draped casket was taken to Carrington Cemetery. School children lined the street to wave flags as the funeral procession passed.

Koenig, 33, a 141st Engineer Combat Battalion soldier, was killed Sept. 22 in Iraq by a roadside bomb.

"The only words we can say are the only ones Lance wanted to hear," said Dr. Michael Page. "We love you Lance."

Page, Koenig's best friend, shared memories of the fallen soldier at the funeral. Struggling for composure, Page brought many of the audience members from tears to laughter and back to tears as he talked about Koenig's life.

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To describe Koenig, a "long list of superlatives" could be used, Page said. But Koenig never wanted praise or recognition.

His friend would want to be remembered for things like his calm demeanor, Page said.

But most of all he would want to be remembered as a man who loved his wife, Angie, and two children, Alexandra, 12, and Brooklynn, 2.

Koenig's love for his family was very strong. He met his wife at Carrington High School and knew by the ninth grade that he wanted to marry her, Page said. He also loved his children deeply and was very proud of them. Koenig knew that his greatest accomplishment in life was his children.

One of Page's memories was playing cards at Robert and Lynette Koenig's house. There were several unwritten rules that originated with Lance Koenig, Page said. The first was not to worry about his father winning any games.

"He'd be sleeping by the third hand," Page said.

The next rule was to never let Les Koenig, Lance's brother, win. The two were very competitive. The last rule was to let the youngest Koenig sibling, Lane Koenig, win.

"Because Lance said so -- period," Page said.

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Koenig was a football and wrestling star at Carrington High School and a three-time All-American wrestler at North Dakota State University.

The Rev. Les Koenig helped officiate the service. His message to members of the 141st, still serving in Iraq, was that his brother respected them and was honored to serve with them.

"I will constantly be thinking of you," he said. "I will constantly be praying for you as you serve."

The worst question people ask about Lance is what he thought about having to serve in Iraq, Les said.

"Lance accepted his responsibility," he said. "... No matter where Lance was at he loved to give of himself."

And his brother did not fear, Les Koenig said. He might have been scared, but he didn't fear.

"Lance knew he could find the courage because of his faith in God," he said.

His brother may not have been perfect, but he gave his life to God and he believed that there was life after this life on Earth.

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"I'm here to say he's with the Savior today," Les Koenig said.

He also remembered his brother as a competitive person.

"Lance wanted to be in the game," he said. "... Lance was not the type of person to sit on the sidelines."

At the end of the service, Lance Koenig was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the North Dakota Legion of Merit by Gov. John Hoeven and Maj. Gen. Michael Haugen, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard. The Purple Heart is awarded for wounds or death as the result of an opposing force, and the Bronze Star is awarded for meritorious achievement or service, according to a U.S. Army page.

After the service, Carrington High School classmates Amy Puterbaugh of Fargo and Karen Anderson of Bottineau, and others, stood outside the church and reminisced. Puterbaugh estimated about half of the class of 1989 attended the funeral, including former members of the high school wrestling team.

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