Bio: Olson, Todd (29 Dec. 2004)

Contact: Crystal Wendt

----Source: Marshfield News Herald (Marshfield, Wood Co., Wis.) Wed, Dec 29, 2004

Loyal prepares to honor its fallen soldier

By Jonathan Gneiser [Marshfield News-Herald]

LOYAL - Preparations have begun on both sides of the globe for ceremonies to honor a soldier from Loyal who was killed in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Todd D. Olson, 36, died Monday in the 67th Combat Support Hospital in Tikrit, Iraq, from wounds he received in Samarra on Sunday when a homemade bomb, often used by insurgents, detonated, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Maj. Gen. Albert Wilkening, adjutant general of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and the state's deputy adjutant general offered their personal condolences Tuesday morning to Todd's family during a visit to their home, said Nancy Olson, Todd's wife.

Wilkening said it would take a week to 10 days for Todd's body to be brought home to Loyal. A member of the National Guard will guard the body once it reaches the United States, she said.

Cuddie Funeral Home of Loyal will assist the family with arrangements once the body is returned home. Loyal School Board member Chuck Rueth has spoken with school officials about organizing a public ceremony at the high school.

A Chippewa Falls-based engineering group also stationed in Samarra is counseling Olson's fellow soldiers, Nancy Olson said. A memorial service for Todd Olson will be held Thursday in Iraq.

Todd Olson was assigned to the National Guard's 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, which is based in Neillsville. Nancy Olson said she's worried about the other members of his unit.

"It has to be such a distraction from their mission," she said. "I don't want anybody else to be injured in any way." As squad leader, Olson was leading a foot patrol on the evening of Dec. 26 when an IED - improvised explosive device - detonated, said Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, director of public affairs for the Wisconsin National Guard.

"IEDs, whether roadside bombs like this one appeared to be, or vehicle-borne IEDs, seem to be the most common cause of injury and death to U.S. service members," Donovan said.

Presumably, Olson would have led a squad of about 10 soldiers, Donovan said.

"The reason this unit is over there is to assist with stabilization and security in Iraq," he said. "The way you do that is to patrol. They were on such a patrol and, sadly, Staff Sergeant Olson lost his life trying to make Iraq a safer place." Nancy Olson said her family has been overwhelmed with gifts of food, and many friends and family members have stopped by their home to show support. A military mom from Marshfield baked a cake for the family and dropped it off Monday night.

"Her son is in the service, but he's not even part of Todd's group," Nancy Olson said. "We couldn't believe it that she drove from Marshfield."

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., called the family Tuesday morning, and Gov. Jim Doyle was expected to call that afternoon, she said.



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