Ken VanGiesen never had any regrets about his decision to join the Pennsylvania Army National Guard after graduating from Kane Area High School in 1999.
"If I had it to do over again, I still would do it," VanGiesen told The Kane Republican in 2005 before the first of his two deployments in Iraq. "I'm proud to be able to do it."
This brave and loyal American lost his life Monday while serving with a National Guard unit in Afghanistan.
Just 30 years old, the soldier is the son of Tom and Sue VanGiesen of 137 Lincoln St., Kane. He and his longtime girlfriend, Erin Sirianni of Kane, had been living in a house they purchased in Erie, where VanGiesen had been working with the National Guard.
The fallen soldier had been a member of the National Guard unit based at the Kane Armory on Chestnut Street. Because of his unique skills as a mechanic, Staff Sgt. VanGiesen was pulled from his "home" base to go to Afghanistan with another National Guard unit that needed someone with his expertise.
Two other members of that same unit also were killed Monday along with VanGiesen when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in eastern Afghanistan. The unit was part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The armored vehicle reportedly was part of a convoy.
According to a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, the deaths of VanGiesen and his two colleagues Monday means that nine members of the Pennsylvania National Guard now have sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. The spokesman said another 30 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard have been killed in Iraq.
The National Guard spokesman said he is unable to provide further details on the tragic incident at this time.
According to VanGiesen's father-- a former member of the National Guard himself-- the body of his son is scheduled to arrive today at the Dover, Del. Air Force Base.
Members of the VanGiesen family left Tuesday to be present at the Air Force base in Delaware today when the body of the fallen soldier arrives back in the U.S.
Tom VanGiesen said that services for his son would be held at the Ronald McDonald Funeral Home in Kane. Arrangements are incomplete.