Columbia soldier dies in Iraq

1st Lt. William A. Edens was known for his humor; he was killed last week in an explosion
Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:03 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting.]

Two years after graduating from MU, 1st Lt. William A. Edens is still remembered for his quick wit. His sense of humor made him famous in the Department of German and Russian Studies.

“One of my colleagues remembers a project where he did an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression that was absolutely hilarious,” professor Nicole Monnier said.

Edens, 29, of Columbia, and four other soldiers were killed Thursday in Tal Afar, Iraq, said Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman. An improvised explosive device went off near their armored vehicle.

Edens’ friends counted on his ability to lighten any moment with a one-liner or joke. The dimpled, blond young man’s smile was contagious. His fun-loving personality combined with a sense of duty when he joined the Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in September.

Edens was known for his dedication and care for the soldiers he commanded. He was proud to serve, friends say.

“Wil never seemed to worry about himself, but seemed concerned about his soldiers, and wanted to make them proud with how he would lead them in combat,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Grenard, who was a classmate of Eden’s in MU’s ROTC program.

Edens graduated from MU in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Russian and a minor in military science. He was active in ROTC and liked to bicycle and play water polo. He led his ROTC team to two back-to-back regional championships in the annual Ranger Challenge.

Edens joined the National Guard while at MU and served as the ROTC’s sergeant major, the top junior cadet in the program.

His teachers say he was a joy to have in class, and his peers saw him as a leader.

“He was always at the top of our class with military activities and was admirably looked up to by both his peers and subordinates,” Grenard said.

Edens is survived by his parents and wife, Christina.

“I never talked to him about the feelings of leaving his wife to go to war, but I know that Wil cared for her very much,” Grenard said. “I’m sure that leaving her was one of the hardest things he’d ever done.”

Edens was an armor specialist based at Fort Lewis, Wash., Robbins said. He completed Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga.

During his service, he was decorated with a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Army Achievement Medal, Fort Lewis spokesman Matt Hinkle said. He was assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

A memorial will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at Fort Lewis. Details about other memorials might be released today at a meeting outside Mehlville High School in St. Louis, where Edens graduated in 1993.

Grenard remembers Edens’ loyalty and dedication.

“He was a great man, an amazing soldier, and a wonderful friend and we’ll all miss him very much.”

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