WSU loses first student in Iraq

Washington State University lost its first student in the War in Iraq on Dec. 30, 2004, in Baghdad when Sgt. Damien Thai Ficek and his patrol were 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.

Ficek, 26, was a student at WSU until fall semester 2003, when his National Guard unit was activated, leading him to withdraw from classes. Ficek 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 a good job and was a pleasure to have in the program.

“Our thoughts and prayer certainly with his family,” said Drake.

Ficek, a graduate of Beaverton (Ore.) High School, is survived by his wife Kyla, a WSU student and Pullman resident; parents Donna and Danny Vian, of the Portland, Ore. area, Dean and Suzanne Dibble, of the Vancouver, Wash. area, two brothers, Dustin and John, in-laws Richard and Lorri Gellerson, as well as a large extended family and friends.

WSU is planning a memorial ceremony to be held in Ficek’s honor at the Pullman campus later this month. “We want to honor him and thank him for his service, and for paying the ultimate price,” said a tearful Charii Higgins, WSU’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator. Details will be announced at a later date.

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.

For more information go to the U.S. Department of Defense website at or the Army Public Affairs at 703-692-2000.

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