Sunday, July 3, 2005

Letters home were all upbeat

Heat suspected cause of death
Staff Writer,
Columbus, Georgia Ledger-Enquirer

When uniformed Army officials knocked on his door at 11 p.m. Thursday night, Delane Wahl, father of 19-year-old Tyler Wahl, said he knew why they came before they opened their mouths.

"As soon as I opened the door, I knew he had died," Delane Wahl said from his home in Pelican Rapids, Minn.

National Guard Pvt. Tyler Wahl was at Fort Benning for basic training and had spent the day outside in communication and navigation classes. He was waiting to enter the dining facility between 4:30 and 5 p.m. when he collapsed, Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro said. Wahl was immediately treated and taken to Martin Army Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly before 6 p.m.

Manganaro did not know if Wahl complained of discomfort during training Thursday.

Wahl's father said his son's letters had all been upbeat, and that he had not had trouble on other hot days during the past few weeks.

"The way I get through is because I know that's what he wanted to do," said Wahl's father, who raised both Wahl and his brother.

Wahl, a native of Pelican Rapids, arrived at Fort Benning on June 8 and was scheduled to be in basic training for 14 weeks. Wahl had been training with the National Guard one weekend a month for the past year.

Wahl's father was first told the cause of death was heat related, and later that it might have been a heart attack. Wahl's father said his son had no history of medical problems.

The Army would not comment on the cause of death until the autopsy report was completed. Thursday's high temperature was 91 degrees according to AccuWeather.

Wahl's father remembers when his son enlisted in the National Guard over a year ago: "When he was 17 he came home from school and there was a recruiter with him. He said that's what he wanted to do."

Wahl told his father that signing the paperwork was the best birthday present he received. "He was proud to be (a member of the National Guard), that's all he talked about to our next-door neighbors."

Growing up Wahl also enjoyed camping. Every summer Wahl, who was burned on his torso when he was 11, went to a camp for burn victims where he took up rock climbing. Last year he spent two weeks in Canada camping in the Boundry Waters.

Wahl planned to go to Minnesota State University Moorhead in the fall to study computer programming to design video games, his father said.

Wahl's father said his son's body would be transported home the first part of this week and the memorial service will be this weekend.

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