A candlelight vigil to honor the life and military service of former student Sgt. Damien T. Ficek and the other men and women who have given their lives in service to their country will be held Wednesday, Jan. 19. Members of the community are invited to gather at 4:15 p.m. in front of the Compton Union Building where candles will be lit for a walk to the WSU Veteran’s Memorial at 4:30 p.m. There, the Colors will be retired at sunset and “Taps” will be played. Ficek’s widow, Kyla, will speak at the service, as will Bill Drake, director of WSU Athletic Training Services, and family friends Sgt. Michael Brabner and Heather Alfred.

Ficek, 26, was the first Washington State University student to be killed in the War in Iraq. He died on Dec. 30, 2004, in Baghdad when his patrol was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.  Ficek, a Pullman resident, was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, Spokane, Wash., a part of the 81st Brigade Combat Team.

“We want to honor him and thank him for his service, and for paying the ultimate price,” said Charii Higgins, WSU’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator. … “This vigil is not only in memory of Sgt. Ficek, but for all the men and women who have given their lives in the name of freedom, as well as all our service men and women currently involved in the War on Terrorism.”

Higgins said that during fall semester WSU had approximately 75-80 students who have been called into active duty to help fight the war against terrorism and the War in Iraq.

Ficek was a student at WSU until fall semester 2003, when his National Guard unit was activated, leading him to withdraw from classes. He transferred to WSU from Pierce Community College in Tacoma in the fall semester of 2002. He was enrolled in the athletic training education program offered through the College of Education. He earned a place on the President’s Honor Roll for fall semester 2002 and spring semester 2003. He received the Denice K. Bahr Summers Memorial Scholarship for the 2003-2004 academic year.

Bill Drake, an assistant athletic director in training services with WSU Athletics, said Ficek was studying to become a certified athletic trainer and describes him as a “mature responsible student.

“Although we only had him for a short time, he did a good job and was a pleasure to have in the program.
“Our thoughts and prayer certainly with his family,” said Drake.

For more information go to the U.S. Department of Defense website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases or the Army Public Affairs at 703-692-2000.