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DeKalb soldier honored

Members of the 708th Medical Company and Illinois National Guard grieve Friday during the memorial service for Spc. Ashley Sietsema, who died Monday in Kuwait from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle accident while conducting a routine medical transfer of a patient. Sietsema, 20, was a DeKalb resident.
Submitted photo MASTER SGT. MICHELE R. HAMMONDS
Members of the 708th Medical Company and Illinois National Guard grieve Friday during the memorial service for Spc. Ashley Sietsema, who died Monday in Kuwait from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle accident while conducting a routine medical transfer of a patient. Sietsema, 20, was a DeKalb resident. Submitted photo MASTER SGT. MICHELE R. HAMMONDS

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday ordered all state buildings to fly their American and state flags at half-staff from sunrise Saturday to sunset Monday in honor of a DeKalb woman who died in Kuwait earlier this week. Illinois National Guards-woman Spc. Ashley Sietse-ma, 20, died Monday as a result of injuries suffered in a single-vehicle accident while conducting a routine medical transfer of a patient from Camp Buehring to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, according to a news release from the Illinois Army and Air National Guard. The cause of the accident is being investigated. Sietsema was remembered Friday by her family and friends for her love of helping others. “Since Ashley was a young girl, she has shown her love of helping others by volunteering at church and always helping out her family,” Nadia McKensie, Sietsema's aunt and the spokeswoman for the family, said in a statement released Friday. “Her love for volunteering is what led her to proudly serve her country in the Illinois Army National Guard two years ago,” McKensie said in the statement. “We are proud of the woman Ashley became and so is her husband, Max, who she married this past spring. She is truly our hero and will always be in our hearts.” The family has declined to be interviewed at this time. A funeral service for Sietsema is scheduled for noon Sunday at Ronan-Moore-Finch Funeral Home in DeKalb. She will be buried with full military honors in Fairview Park Cemetery in DeKalb. Local veterans groups said Friday night that they plan to line up along the avenue outside of the cemetery to show support for Sietsema's family. Sietsema is the 16th casualty the Illinois National Guard has suffered since the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan began, and the fourth female Illinois Guard casualty, according to the Illinois National Guard. She is the second National Guard member from DeKalb County to die during the current conflicts: First Lt. Brian Slavenas of Genoa was 30 when he died Nov. 2, 2003, when the helicopter he was piloting was shot down near Fallujah, Iraq. Sietsema, formerly of River Grove, was an Army health care specialist and ambulance driver assigned to the 708th Medical Company in North Riverside. She was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist. More than 500 soldiers attended a memorial service Friday for Sietsema at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, according to the Illinois National Guard. “We are a family at the 708th, and losing a family member is never easy,” Capt. James Dodd, commander of the 708th Medical Company, said during the service. “But Ashley has left her handprint on our hearts, and she touched each and every one of our lives. Even though today she is not physically with us, she will never leave our hearts or our minds. Ashley will not be forgotten, and we will keep her spirit with us forever.” Sietsema was the daughter of Olivia Segura of DeKalb. She married Max Sietsema on April 27. Max Sietsema is listed as a student at Northern Illinois University in the NIU online telephone directory. Ashley Sietsema was studying at NIU in hopes of earning a nursing degree, according to the Illinois National Guard. A 2005 graduate of East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Sietsema enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in December 2004. She attended basic combat training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and advanced individual training at Fort Same Houston in Texas. She deployed to Kuwait on Sept. 3 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Illinois National Guard. “The ultimate sacrifice is the highest honor a Guardsman can give, and it is by far one of the most difficult and saddest times for the Illinois National Guard. Her loss if felt by us all, both overseas and here at home,” Maj. Gen. William Enyart, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard said in a statement. “On behalf of the men and women of the Illinois National Guard, we offer our deepest condolences to Spc. Sietsema's family, friends and fellow service members. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Dodd described Sietsema as a soldier who always wanted to help others and who looked for the positive in every situation. “Her compassion and dedication for her fellow soldiers could be seen in the work she completed on a daily basis,” Dodd said in a statement. “Ashley's time was limited in the Army, but the impact she had on hundreds of soldiers will be felt daily.” Kate Schott can be reached at kschott@daily-chronicle.com.

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