Bridge near Mitchell named after South Dakota Soldier killed in Iraq

Local News

MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) — A bridge on Highway 38 on the outskirts of Mitchell will now be known as the SSGT Gregory Wagner Memorial Bridge. It is part of the state fallen heroes bridge dedication program which names bridges after South Dakotans who have died in active service.

Friends, family, students, and current and former members of the South Dakota national guard came to honor Greg Wagner during a special ceremony at the Hanson High School gym in his hometown of Alexandria. Wagner was killed by an explosive device in a Baghdad neighborhood in 2006. During the gathering, family-friend and country music recording artist Jimmy Webber paid tribute with songs, including God Bless the USA.

In 2006, Senator John Thune spoke at Greg Wagner’s funeral service at the Corn Palace. Today he came to Alexandria telling the crowd that Greg was a son of the prairie who gave his life for our freedom.

“He was willing to answer that call and to service his country and he paid the ultimate price and today we honor him and say how grateful we are,” said Thune.

Greg’s commanding officer at the time of his death wanted everyone in the crowd and everyone who drives over the bridge on Highway 38 to know what kind of a person Greg Wagner was. Colonel Phil Stiles says he lost his temper that day and directed his anger at the local Iraqis then he noticed a scared little boy.

“And I stopped, and I realized at that moment that this is not the path that Greg Wagner would have taken. Staff Sergeant Wagner would not have done what I was doing, so I stopped redirected myself and knelt down beside that boy and told him it’s going to be ok,” said Colonel Stiles.

Dozens of members of Charlie Battery who served alongside Greg attended the gathering. They watched with the family as the road sign which will be placed at the bridge over the James River was unveiled.

Greg’s brother Dan says the sign and the recognition mean a lot not just for his family but for all veterans.

“Tom, it’s been 15 years or more now and you know we ask ourselves as a family does it get better and you know it still hurts there are times when it is just a fresh as ever but if we keep remembering the good things and do it because we want to keep his memory alive and those of all the veterans it gets a little bit easier but it means so much,” said Dan.

Veteran and musician Jimmy Weber promised Greg Wagner’s mom that he would write a song dedicated to Greg and other veterans. Here is a link to that video which is called “God is Nigh”

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