Fallen Waterloo soldier honored with monument - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Fallen Waterloo soldier honored with monument

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A fallen hometown hero will forever be remembered now outside a high school football field in Waterloo.

US Army Staff Sgt. Eric Steffeney was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Feb. 23, 2005.  He was 28 years old.

Steffeney graduated from West High School in 1994 and played center for its football team. The stone marker sits outside Waterloo's Memorial Stadium, where his alma mater now plays, that will remind all who attend future football games of the cost of freedom.

Saturday afternoon, more than 100 supporters gathered outside the stadium for the unveiling of Steffeney's stone monument.

Among members of the crowd were the fallen soldier's mom and dad.

"You learn to live with it, but each holiday that comes, each change of season, a song might bring up the pain, but I am just so grateful that I got to have a son, and I had him for 28 years," said Steffeney's mother, Annette Crowe.

Memorial Stadium wasn't built yet when Steffeney attended West High in the early '90s, but his family wanted the memorial there, where the Wahawks now play their games.

"This day is to recognize Eric and, with him, all those brave souls that have sacrificed in our nation's service," read speaker Maj. Garrett Gingrich, of the Iowa Army National Guard.

Speakers highlighted what they said was Steffeney's selfless bravery. He disabled and destroyed more than 50,000 explosive devices as an EOD, or bomb technician.

"Arguably the most dangerous job in the military. Period," Gingrich said. "He's one of the courageous warriors that made his living disarming improvised explosive devices, rockets, artillery rounds, land mines and anything else that was meant to kill and maim American soldiers overseas."

Emily Meier is a senior at West High, where she's involved in the school's JROTC program. At Saturday's ceremony, she held the American flag during the colors presentation.

She said Saturday's ceremony is an important reminder of the cost of war. Having recently signed with the Iowa Army National Guard, Meier is just starting her own military career.

"It makes me think about all the things that could happen, even to me and my family," Meier said, reflecting on Saturday's ceremony. "I have a lot of family that have been in the military and that've gone overseas, and I'm very lucky that things like this haven't happened to them."

Steffeney's mom hopes all people who pass the monument take a moment to reflect.

"I don't want us to ever take for granted that we have a lot of freedoms in the United States," Crowe said. "Women can go to school and get an education and we have freedom to practice any religion that we want, and I don't want anybody to forget that our freedoms aren't free."

Steffeney was serving his second tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom when he died. He left behind a wife and three children.

Steffeney received four Army Achievement medals and three Good Conduct medals. After his death, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

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