Willmar soldier killed in Iraq
WILLMAR -- A 19-year-old Willmar National Guardsman was killed Thursday in Iraq by a roadside bomb that exploded near his convoy.
Family members of Kyle Randall Miller, 19, of Willmar were notified of his death Friday morning.
Kyle's mother, Kathy Miller of Bird Island, said her son had been in the first vehicle of a seven-vehicle convoy when a roadside bomb exploded.
"He was behind the driver," she said. "My son was doing communications so I thought he'd be safe."
Kathy said she was told her son died on the way to the hospital. She said the driver of the vehicle is in stable condition.
Arrangements for Kyle's funeral are pending with Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar.
Kathy Miller was told it may take a week for Kyle's body to get back to Willmar.
"I cannot believe it," Kathy said Friday night. "It's hard to believe he's gone. It's been a hard day."
Kyle Miller lived in Bird Island from the age of 3 to 15, when he moved in with his father in Willmar. Kathy spoke about her son's good sense of humor and artistic abilities.
"He made me smile every day," she said.
Kyle Miller's father, Randy Miller of Willmar, declined to comment on his son's death Friday morning. Staff Sgt. Dan Smith was fielding phone calls at Randy's home later in the day.
The Rev. Steve Knudson of Vinje Lutheran Church said he had met with the family Friday morning.
The National Guard would neither deny nor confirm Kyle Miller's death. The Department of Defense and Minnesota National Guard can't notify the public until 24 hours after the last family member is notified, said 1st Lt. Sheree Savage of the Minnesota Air National Guard.
"It'd be horrible for a family member to find out through the media," Savage said.
If a death is confirmed, a press release will be issued by the National Guard, Savage said. Although no confirmation on the death was made, space directly in front of the armory was sectioned off for media crews Friday afternoon.
Willmar Mayor Les Heitke directed that flags be lowered to half-staff Friday in the city.
Kyle Miller was a member of the 682nd Engineer Battalion of Willmar and was apparently among the 2,600 Minnesotans deployed with the 4,000 National Guard and Army Reserve troops in March. Kyle graduated from the Willmar Area Learning Center in 2005 and completed his basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga.
Kyle is the fifth military death in the area since the war started. Sgt. Brent Koch, 22, of Morton died in June. Staff Sgt. David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park, 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, of Tracy and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka, 24, of Alexandria, formerly Appleton, were killed in February of 2005.
-- Features Editor Sharon Bomstad contributed to this story.