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Dozens gather to remember fallen soldiers from Minnesota

Associated Press

MONTEVIDEO, Minn. -- Dozens of people gathered at the National Guard Armory on Thursday to offer prayers and to remember three Minnesotans who gave their lives in Iraq.

"I just can't imagine what the family is going through," said Rod Bruflat of Clarkfield, who attended Thursday's candlelight vigil. "You just realize just how close it is to home," Bruflat told the Independent of Marshall.

On Monday, three Minnesotans from the Montevideo-based 151st Field Artillery died in Baghdad when a roadside bomb went off while they were trying to help an injured comrade.

The fallen soldiers were 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, of Tracy; Staff Sgt. David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park; and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka, 24, of Alexandria. Two other members of the unit were injured.

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"I was in the Vietnam War and it's important to support the soldiers and the families throughout this," said Gordon Loyson, a Vietnam veteran who attended the vigil. "They did an honorable thing for their country, it's the ultimate sacrifice."

The families and friends of some of the fallen soldiers attended the vigil.

Juanita Knutson of Montevideo, who used to baby-sit for Lhotka. She held a picture of him during the vigil and told the West Central Tribune that she remembered him as a fun kid, and the class clown.

"Oh, he was a sweetie," said Knutson's mother, Linda McDougal, speaking about the soldier they always knew as a family friend.

Members of Timmerman's family drove from Tracy for the vigil, but they arrived late and missed it. Still, Rose Goltz and her brother Fran Verly had fond memories of Timmerman, their nephew.

"We wanted to be here for Jason and for the rest," Goltz said. "There's just no replacing him ... he just gave and gave and gave."

On Thursday, the family of David Day issued a statement saying he was a loving husband, brother and son, who believed in his country and in his fellow men. The family said that Day always wanted to wear a uniform.

"Dave's family would continuously tell him he is a hero, and he would quickly discard their beliefs and would say -- he was just doing his job," the statement said.

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