Hundreds mourn fallen soldier

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2005

APPLETON (AP) &045; Hundreds of people gathered in this western Minnesota town to mourn the loss of a hometown hero.

Police estimate that 700 people withstood a brisk, north wind and snow showers on Sunday evening to remember Sgt. Jesse Lhotka, 24, an Appleton native who was living in Alexandria, with prayers and a candlelight procession to the local armory.

Lhotka; 1st Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, of Tracy, formerly of Cottonwood; and Staff Sgt. David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park, formerly of Morris; were all members of the Minnesota National Guard’s 151st Artillery who died last Monday in Iraq.

They were killed when a roadside bomb went off while they were trying to help an injured comrade in Baghdad. Their deaths brought to 19 the number of Minnesotans who have died in the Mideast during the conflict.

Lhotka’s widow, Stacey Lhotka, of Alexandria, and mother, Beverly Lhotka, of Appleton, and five siblings took seats on the black granite of the community’s war memorial as candles glowed and community members gathered behind them, the West Central Tribune of Willmar reported.

The Guard announced funeral arrangements earlier Sunday.

A public visitation for Timmerman was set for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at Tracy Lutheran Church in Tracy. His funeral will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Marshall, with interment afterward at Green Valley Cemetery in Green Valley.

Lhotka’s public visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Zion Lutheran Church in Appleton. A prayer service will be held at the church from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. His funeral will be at the church Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., with interment Thursday at Greenwood Cemetery in Sauk Centre.

The public visitation for Day will be from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the National Guard Armory in Morris.

There will be a procession of police vehicles to honor Day, a St. Louis Park police officer, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Morris, starting at the Pederson Funeral Home and ending at Assumption Church. His funeral will be at the church from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday with interment Friday in the state cemetery at Camp Ripley.