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Homecoming for RI soldier killed in Afghanistan

March 31, 2012
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WARWICK, R.I.—The commander of the Rhode Island National Guard on Saturday paid glowing tribute to a soldier who was killed by an armored vehicle while trying to save a girl in Afghanistan, saying the 29-year-old is "a true hero and patriot."

Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, the adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard, spoke after the body of Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. arrived at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick under snow and rain conditions Saturday morning.

Military officials say Weichel had moved an Afghan girl to safety shortly before he was struck and killed by armored vehicle in an accident on March 22.

Weichel, of Providence, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the NATO Service Medal Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon RI Star.

His body was received by a military funeral honor detachment in a ceremony overseen by Gov. Lincoln Chafee and McBride, National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Denis Riel said.

"On this sober day, we are honored to welcome back the remains of a true hero and patriot, Sgt. Dennis Weichel," McBride said at the ceremony.

Weichel's mother, father, fiance and three children were also present, along with other members of his family and the mother of his two oldest children.

"We are cognizant of our perpetual duty to provide for his family and to ensure that their needs are met at this trying time and well into the future," the Rhode Island National Guard chief said.

Visiting hours are set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Olson & Parent Funeral Home in Providence.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. It will be followed by burial at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.

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