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Fallen soldier's son speaks at Veterans Day event

posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 in  College News

By: John Molseed, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

WATERLOO—No veteran's sacrifice is made in a vacuum.

During a Hawkeye Community College Veterans Day ceremony, Keenan Gienau, whose father died while deployed Iraq, reminded people of the sacrifice people left behind often endure.

Gienau was keynote speaker at the midday ceremony. He spoke of his memories of his father, Brian Gienau, and the loss he felt in 2005 when, at age 9, he learned his father had been killed in Iraq when an improvised explosive device struck the vehicle in which he was traveling. Brian Gienau died while deployed with Army National Guard's 224th Engineer Battalion, Burlington.

"You're making more sacrifices than anyone will know," Gienau said. His late father attended Hawkeye from 1999-2001 and graduated with an associate's degree. He also graduated from Tripoli High School and received a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa.

Keenan Gienau was joined by Hawkeye administrators, veterans and students for the event. Jason Wisehart, Brian Gienau's company commander, also attended.

Wisehart said Gienau's statements Tuesday highlight the sacrifice people at home share with soldiers.

"As soldiers, we're prepared for this—to give the ultimate sacrifice," Wisehart said. "Family members aren't prepared for that kind of sacrifice."

Wisehart was also deployed in Iraq when Gienau was killed while riding in a Humvee.

"He was one of the best soldiers you could have," Wisehart said. "He was very professional and dedicated to the men under his command."

A second lieutenant, Gienau, was a platoon leader in the company. His loss was felt deeply in the unit. The attack also took the life of Spc. Seth Garceau, 22, of Oelwein. Their deaths came two months into the deployment to Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

Keenan Gienau said he would go through the experience again before asking another family to go through what he did.

"I would do it to save someone else the hurt," he said.

Gienau said he hopes his story help people recognize the sacrifice soldiers and their families are willing to make.

Wisehart said that message was clear, and he was glad to travel from Des Moines to hear it, although his reasons for attending were hard to explain. The commanding officer and son will forever be united in admiration and loss.

"I don't know if there's words for it," Wisehart said. "I had to be here."

The event was an opportunity to remind people to show their appreciation for veterans, and not just on Nov. 11.

"Give them jobs, help them, hire them," said Robin Knight, Hawkeye veterans services coordinator. "Put that recognition to practice."

Hawkeye was recognized by the Military Times as a top two-year college for veterans. The ranking is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education and a survey of services and incentives the college offers to military and veteran students.

Hawkeye currently has 234 military and veteran students, Knight said.

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