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Body of slain soldier to arrive in Olivia

OLIVIA -- The body of Spc. James Wertish is expected to arrive today in Olivia.

Wertish, 20, of rural Olivia, was one of three Minnesotan soldiers killed in a missile attack on the evening of July 16 near Basra, Iraq. He was a member of the National Guard with the "Red Bulls" of the 34th Infantry Division.

Wertish's body is scheduled to arrive at about 10:23 a.m. Thursday at the National Guard Base in St. Paul. The body will be met by family and a military Honor Guard. They are expected to leave the base around 11:30 a.m.

The Patriot Guard Riders will escort the body from the National Guard base in St. Paul to Olivia on U.S. Highway 212. The procession is expected to arrive between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. today at Dirks-Blem Funeral Home in Olivia.

The other soldiers killed in the attack were Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, 27, of Cottage Grove, and Spc. Daniel P. Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury. Spc. Jacob Benson, 22, of Willmar, suffered injuries.

Benson, who was a good friend of all three soldiers, said that Wertish had died before medics arrived on the scene of the attack.

He said all three were not only great soldiers, but also dear friends of his.

"They were the best soldiers I ever got to know," he said.

Wertish's funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Bird Island. Visitation is at the church from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Drevnick's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury, with burial at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, according to the Associated Press.

Wilcox's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Light of Way Church in Cottage Grove, according to the South Washington County Bulletin. A 10 a.m. wake will precede the service.

-- Staff Writer Anne Polta contributed to this story.