PALO, Iowa (KCRG) - Sitting below the flag he fought for, just outside Palo City Hall, is a reminder of the soldier the City of Palo says it’ll never forget.
Sgt. Kevin Gilbertson (Courtesy Photo)
“It’s a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice. It really is,” Palo City Council Member Pete Hagstrom said of the stone memorial dedicated several years ago to Army Sgt. Kevin Gilbertson.
Gilbertson had a big surprise for his father, Don, after graduating from Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids.
“He shocked the hell out of me when he said he was going into the Army,” Don said, who currently lives in Palo.
The younger Gilbertson served six years in the U.S. Army, working his way up to being promoted to a sergeant.
“He did a deployment in Kosovo, and then he was at the end of his second deployment in Iraq,” Don said.
After a battle in 2007, for which Gilbertson earned a Bronze Star Award, he posted a photo on MySpace of himself standing in front of a bullet-riddled Humvee with a caption: “You ain’t got me yet.”
About two months later, Gilbertson was injured when insurgents attacked his unit in Ramadi, according to the Department of Defense. He died from his wounds two days later, on Aug. 31, 2007, at a U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
Gilbertson left behind his wife, Nina, and their newborn son, Timothy, not long after they had taken their first and only family photo together.
But Gilbertson is still a constant presence for his family.
“For me, it’s thinking of him every single day,” Don said.
Soon, so too will drivers in Kansas, where Kevin’s mother now lives.
The South Summit Bridge near Arkansas City, Kansas, will be dedicated as the Sgt. Kevin Gilbertson Memorial Bridge on Aug. 3.
Don said more than 20 of his family members plan to be there when it happens.
“It’s completely awesome,” Don said. “It’s just — he’s going to be recognized somewhere else in the country.”
Back home in eastern Iowa, Gilbertson is still remembered in his father’s hometown of Palo, with the stone memorial beneath the flag he served until his last day.
“Kevin is my son, and he’s our hero,” Don said. “That’s the way I feel. ‘Our’ being, us — my family, our nation.”