Dec. 3, 2005: Marines shared pride, passion for service

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF and SUZANNE ZIEGLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2011 - 8:54 AM

Anthony McElveen liked coming home to Little Falls, Minn., to share his stories about Iraq with students. Scott Modeen of New Hope was more reserved about his experiences.

But they both had the same passion: They were proud to be Marines and to serve their country.

Modeen, a 24-year-old lance corporal, joined the Marines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was in his second tour of duty in Iraq.

"Scott was the kind of person who could make you laugh whenever you were around him," said a statement from his family. "After 9/11, he joined the Marines and was proud to be defending our
freedom. He was proud to be a Marine."

Randy Tabatt, who was McElveen's social studies teacher at Little Falls High School, said: "I'm just a teacher who was lucky enough to have him in class."

He described McElveen, 21, as a great young man.

"He was always very proud of the fact that they were doing good things [in the military]. He always wanted to make sure that ... everyone knew that they were doing more good than what the news
necessarily portrayed."

Modeen and McElveen, whose rank was unknown, were the 29th and 30th Minnesotans to die in the Mideast during the war in Iraq.

Sam Fedo of Forest Lake, Modeen's brother-in-law, said Scott was determined to join the Marines after Sept. 11. He chose the Marines over the other branches of the military because he said he wanted to be with the foremost group.

"In his own words, he said if he was gonna go in, he was gonna go in with the top set of forces," Fedo said. "He wanted to be the best."

Fedo said Modeen, a graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper High School, was a proud son and sibling of nine brothers and sisters and nephew of 26 aunts and uncles. He said Modeen's parents "were extremely proud of him" and "would speak with him any chance they could get."

Family members sent him care packages every week - that often included his favorite Snickers candy bars - and letters daily.

Fedo said Modeen didn't express any fear about returning to Iraq for his second tour of duty in July 2005. He had ended a seven-month tour in September 2004.

"He was ready to go back and be with his fellow Marines," Fedo said. "He didn't really talk [about any concerns]."

Fedo said Modeen's family was grieving Friday night and did not want to be contacted.

However, in a statement released through Fedo, Modeen's kin acknowledged his impact on their lives.

"We are truly blessed," it said. "We are proud to call him our son, our brother, and our friend. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of his fellow Marines who so bravely lost their lives this week."

McElveen `blossomed'

Tabatt said he learned of McElveen's death early Friday morning when McElveen's mother called him.

McElveen was a 2003 graduate of Little Falls High School, where he played hockey and was in the band.

Tabatt said McElveen went to boot camp after he graduated and came back to Little Falls twice.

"He spoke to our class last winter," Tabatt said. "He was fantastic. He was in tip-top shape and very proud to be serving his country. The kids were absolutely mesmerized with the way that he carried himself."

Tabatt said he wants people to know that his former student "was just darn proud to serve his country. His parents were proud of him and we were proud of him. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people."

McElveen's parents live in Little Falls. His sister graduated from Little Falls High School last year. His family did not return a phone call Friday night.

Tony Couture, who coached McElveen in hockey for four years at Little Falls High, said he couldn't find enough good things to say about him.

"It seems like he just became that much a better person when he was in the military," Couture said. "He just kind of blossomed into a very outstanding person, one that you would like to call your own.

"He was a very likable kid, a very hard-working kid. He could take a bad situation and turn it into a positive one. He was very competitive on the ice and in the classroom."

It was apparently Minnesota's second costliest day in Iraq.

Another deadly day

Three National Guard members - Staff Sgt. David Day, 25, of St. Louis Park, First Lt. Jason Timmerman, 24, of Tracy and Sgt. Jesse Lhotka, 24, of Alexandria - died Feb. 21 when their convoy hit a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

They were members of the 151st Field Artillery based in Montevideo.

And more recently, another Minnesota Marine, Master Sgt. Brett Angus, 40, was killed last Saturday in Iraq by a roadside bomb near Camp Taqaddam, about 45 miles west of Baghdad.

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