Katie M. Soenksen was born on May 20, 1987, the daughter of Ronald L. and Mary Ann (Lovejoy) Soenksen in Davenport, Iowa. Katie attended John F. Kennedy Catholic Elementary School. She was a 2005 Davenport North High School graduate who participated in choir, softball, and the ROTC Program, enlisting in the Army soon after graduation. Katie was united in marriage to Specialist 4th Class Benjamin Rowella. He and Katie were married at Fort Hood, Texas, on June 23, 2006, just six days before Katie was deployed to Iraq. They had met two weeks earlier. SPC Rowella is quoted as saying, “I’ll never marry again.”
Kate was assigned to 410th Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas.
Katie’s deployment to Iraq started in the summer of 2006, and her father noted that she was due back home in June 2007. “She was on a mission,” he said. “She wanted to go over there and keep [the war] on foreign soil. That was her main goal.”In a letter posted on a Department of Defense website, Katie thanked Americans for supporting the troops and acknowledged the difficulty of leaving home.
“Being deployed is one of the hardest things to do,” according to the letter, “But being here makes me realize how good we have it in America. Even though being over here is hard, I’m glad I’m over here… Just seeing how some of them are living just hurts me inside.”
Her father said she was influenced by her godfather and niece, who both joined the military. “She loved it,” her father, Ronald Soenksen, said. “She knew what she was doing when she got into it.” He said his daughter believed she was doing good in Iraq and was upset about how the media portrayed the situation. He said it was natural to feel some fear for his daughter’s safety, but she often “talked about how much fun she was having.”
“She was determined in everything she did in her life,” Ronald Soenksen told The Associated Press. “She was determined to make a difference.”
Ronald Soenksen said he last talked to her on May 1 and that she told him she was preparing for a mission the next day. Pfc. Katie M. Soenksen died Wednesday, May 2, 2007, in West Baghdad, Iraq, while participating with U.S. Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the afternoon of May 2, the Army visited her father’s home to tell him she was Killed In Action.
At the time of her death, Katie Soenksen was the 52nd Iowan killed in Iraq, and there were a total of 64 Iowans killed in the Iraq War. Katie was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Army Good Conduct Medal for her service.
Hundreds packed Our Lady of Victory Church on May 10, 2007, to say goodbye to Katie.
After the service at the Church, a two-mile-long procession escorted her remains to the National Cemetery on Arsenal Island. The route was lined with children and adults holding American flags, saluting, and holding their hands over their hearts.
The playing of Taps and a 21-gun salute prompted a wave of sobs from those gathered at her graveside. An Army official presented American flags to Soenksen’s mother and husband. Some quotes from people who knew Katie sum up the impact Katie had on this world. There are so many they cannot be listed here. Here is a link to some you can read at Legacy of Katie Soenksen.
Candid of Katie from Folds of Honor Headstone located at Rock Island National Cemetery Photo from of Katie’s family
PFC Benjamin Rowella left, Katie’s husband, her brother, Matt Soenksen, and Katie’s mother, Mary Ann Soenksen, follow the hearse after the funeral Mass.
Photo Dan Videtich, The Moline Dispatch Via Associated Press
The beginning of a two-mile-long procession to Rock Island National Cemetery. Photo by Michael Millhollin
Davenport North High School students and others line 53rd Street in front of the school as the funeral procession passes.
Photo by Kevin Schmidt/Associated Press
The Quad City Times.com Thursday, May 10, 2007, By Ann McGlynn |Barb Ickes and Kurt Allemeier contributing.