Body of slain Granite Falls soldier will return home Wednesday

GRANITE FALLS -- Hundreds of people holding red ribbons will line the way for the posthumous return of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Ryan Kahler to his hometown of Granite Falls.

GRANITE FALLS -- Hundreds of people holding red ribbons will line the way for the posthumous return of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Ryan Kahler to his hometown of Granite Falls.

The body of the 29-year-old Granite Falls soldier will be returned Wednesday. He was killed Jan. 26 in Afghanistan.

His body is expected to arrive at the Willmar Mu-nicipal Airport at 11:25 a.m. Wednesday.

Family me-mbers will join for an approximate half-hour, private memorial ceremony at the airport, reported Michelle Gatz, veterans service officer for Yellow Medicine County.

Volunteers with the Granite Falls and Montevideo Fire Departments, along with the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's Department and Granite Falls Police will provide an escort for the soldier's return to Granite Falls at approximately 1 p.m.


The procession will follow Minnesota Highway 23 from Willmar to Chippewa County Road 38 into Granite Falls. It will continue through the downtown to Ninth Avenue on a route by the Yellow Medicine County Courthouse and the Yellow Medicine East High School.

Kahler's classmates in the Class of 1997 have arranged for hundreds of red ribbons to mark the pathway into town in his honor.

Students at Yellow Medicine East High School have already assembled more than 200 of the ribbons.

They expect to have another 200 completed today. Ribbons will be distributed to people along the route and will be placed on utility posts along the route.

More than 600 students in the YME Schools from grades five through 12 will be lining Ninth Avenue to greet the procession into town on Wednesday, according to High School Principal Karen Norell. Veterans and other citizens in the community are also planning to line the route into town in honor of the soldier and his family, Gatz said.

Members of the Class of 1997 organized the ribbon drive to honor Kahler. Classmates want to do what they can to honor his memory and show their support to his surviving family members, according to classmate Kris Ellingboe.

Ellingboe, who organized the class reunion last summer, has helped coordinate activities to honor Kahler from her current home in Atlanta, Ga. She said classmates have kept in touch and have worked together to honor Kahler.

"We've really pulled together as a class,'' said Ellingboe. There were 97 classmates who participated in graduation ceremonies in 1997, and two have now died. Ryan Zimmer died at age 19 one month after his graduation.


The funeral service for Kahler will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Granite Falls Lutheran Church. A public visitation will be held at the church beginning at noon Saturday.

The serviceman's widow, Vicki (Streich) Kahler, and their 4-year-old daughter Allison were expected to return today to Granite Falls. A memorial service was held Thursday in Vicenza, Italy. Kahler was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is based near Vicenza.

The class of 1997 has established a trust fund to help the family with future expenses.

Contributions to the fund can be sent to: Matthew Kahler Trust Fund, Granite Falls Bank, PO Box 8, Granite Falls, MN 56241.

They can also be brought directly to the bank at 702 Prentice Street, Granite Falls.

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