Any doubts that Todd Selge was a patriot were quickly dispelled at Burnsville High School shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

A senior, Selge expressed his love for country by donning a Captain America red, white and blue costume complete with a U.S. flag as a cape. It was not long before school administrators ordered him to remove the flag. It was a distraction, he was told.

He complied until he reached the parking lot at lunch, when the flag/cape came out again. He was spotted and suspended for three days.

"Todd was a patriot, even then," his sister, Tracy, remembered Tuesday at his flag-draped funeral service.

Selge, 25, an Army staff sergeant serving in Iraq with a Fort Lewis, Wash.-based Stryker unit, was killed Sept. 3 with another soldier after their vehicle rolled over in Baqubah. Having enlisted in 2004, he was on his second deployment to Iraq, and his unit was patrolling the same area where he was shot twice in March 2007. He received the Purple Heart for his injuries and rejoined his unit three months after being wounded.

Selge's older brother, Brent, who also is serving in the Army, said his brother's compassion for his family and tenacity as a soldier made their sibling roles reversed. Todd Selge was married to his high school sweetheart, Dellona, and the couple had two boys, Dallas and Austin.

"I was looking up to him now, whether it was his family or how squared away a soldier he was, and he just made me want to be a better person," Brent Selge recalled. "I've asked myself a thousand times why God would take Todd out of us all and find comfort in knowing that Todd's faith was as strong as I've ever seen and that if anybody was ready to go home it was him."

Lt. Michael Beliales, his platoon leader for 18 months, recalled Selge as a feisty debater but also as someone who loved being a soldier who "loved his men to his left and to his right."

"He always demanded more from his men and always gave more to his men. That is the Todd I know," Beliales said.

A former platoon member, still serving in Iraq, wrote a message recounting the day Selge was wounded. "How ya doin', Selge?" he remembered asking. Selge, mostly calm, told him: "It hurts pretty bad." Said his colleague: "I know, man, but we're taking care of you, and nobody's going to get around that corner." Despite the wounds, when the medivac unit arrived, Selge walked to the helicopter.

During the service, his sister had an epilogue to the Captain America incident in high school. At his graduation ceremony, her little brother waited until his diploma was safely in hand. He then quickly pulled out an American flag he had hidden under his gown.

"Out of a class of 900 students Todd had the courage to stand out among his peers," she said.

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636