Local man killed in mission
"We're good to go," Lance Cpl. Dan McVicker wrote in an e-mail Sunday as he prepared to leave for a combat mission. He had been in Iraq just six weeks, when he was killed when his humvee hit a land mine.
Friday night, family and friends attended a football game between Alliance and West Branch high schools long enough to see the American flag at Alliance High School's football stadium lowered to half staff in McVicker's honor.
Dan McVicker, 20, was killed Thursday in Iraq when his humvee hit a land mine. He had been in Iraq just six weeks.
His parents are Mark and Irma McVicker and Carrie and Bill Misner, all of Alliance.
McVicker's father, Mark, said the Marines told him his son died while providing Marine security to convoys that were on patrol and diffusing bombs. His squad was among Marines leading a convoy out of the town of Haditha near the Syrian border, moving north and closer to Syria.
Mark McVicker said he was able to talk to his son frequently on the telephone, most recently Sept. 30, when the Marine said he hurt his hand and had to have six stitches.
Dan McVicker's e-mail Sunday said there was "a big to-do" coming, Operation River Gate, and his squad would be involved.
"It's a big thing, and we're good to go," he wrote. He reminded his family that "if anything happens - and nothing will -" that some Marines would come to the house to let them know."
"We're just numb," Mark McVicker said. "We aren't feeling a whole lot yet."
He said his son and 10 of his classmates enlisted in the Marines soon after graduation from West Branch High School in 2003, because they "heard the call of 9/11."
"He was a very unique individual," Mark McVicker said. "He never followed any fads. He marched to his own drum. He was just Dan. We are just very proud of him. You can't know how much."
Dan McVicker had been at the Marine Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C., for most of his tour, refueling aircraft. He wanted to do more.
Mark McVicker said his son volunteered several times for duty in Iraq and was always disappointed when he wasn't chosen. He planned to re-enlist and serve in the Marines at least two more years.
He also loved to cook and wanted to become a chef.
"He was always concocting something and making us eat it," Mark McVicker said. "We were always worried watching him cook because he would just throw things together, but it was always good."
High school friends
Nick Dillon and Kristen Blackwood were two of Dan McVicker's classmates and friends. They said he was very friendly and very involved in school activities. He was a Warrior Chief - one of the West Branch school mascots - and a member of show choir.
"We had an assembly in school, and Dan and a lot of other boys stood up to show they wanted to join the military," she said. "He really wanted to go. He had a lot of friends and touched a lot of people's lives."
Dillon said Dan McVicker was his best friend. He liked to work on cars. They rode bikes, went swimming and did many other outdoor activities together. They played football together until Dan McVicker injured his knee his freshman year.
His father said he wasn't too worried about not playing football because he didn't plan to make a career of it.
"He knew everyone in the school, and everyone knew him," Dillon said. "There was not one person in the school he didn't like and who didn't like him."
Dillon said several West Branch graduates will gather tonight in a bittersweet celebration to honor Dan McVicker and welcome home two other 2003 graduates, Doug Osburg and Tim Hardy, who just returned from duty in Iraq.
In a section of the West Branch 2003 yearbook, where parents could have printed notes of congratulations, Dan McVicker's family wrote:
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away. We cannot count the number of times you have taken our breath away! ... Always remember, nothing you do is by chance. Treat every day as a gift from God. Choose wisely how you spend them ...
The Marines are fortunate to call you one of theirs!"
Von: 08 October 2005, http://www.vindy.com, by NANCY TULLIS