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The 125th Infantry was moving through Salman Pak, Iraq, when, all of a sudden, its soldiers noticed two Iraqi police vehicles they were traveling with had disappeared.
Immediately, mortars started raining from the sky and Army Staff Sergeant Jack Vliet and others went into nearby vehicles for cover. But Vliet said Specialist Wilson Algrim stayed at his post, telling his fellow soldiers where the rounds were landing.
It was that kind of courage and devotion that set Algrim apart, Vliet said at the fallen soldier's funeral Saturday at the Howell Nazarene Church.
"Obviously, he was one of a kind," said Vliet, Algrim's squad leader. "He was one of the top soldiers I ever served with."
Algrim died December 23, 2006, from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device went off near the Marion Township man's vehicle during combat operations. Two other men with him were also killed; all three were assigned to the Michigan Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry from Big Rapids.
Family and friends remembered the 21-year-old as a quiet, likable guy who was able to overcome several obstacles and mold himself into a strong young man during his time spent in the armed forces.
About 200 people showed up for the service, including former Army buddies; U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton; and other well-wishers. Algrim is at least the ninth soldier with Livingston County ties to die in Iraq, and his funeral comes just a week after one held for Brighton Township Army Specialist Andrew Daul.
"This proves to me this is the next great generation," Rogers said. "I call it the '9/11 generation,' because they're volunteering during war."
The somber service featured a 21-gun salute, the ceremonial playing of "Taps," and the presentation of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star to Algrim's parents. Members of the Patriot Guard stood outside the church, holding U.S. flags. The soldier is to buried this week at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Algrim was born in Antioquia, Columbia. When he was 8 years old, he and his two sisters, Janet and Lisa, and one brother, Jason, were adopted by Don and Judy Algrim.
Judy Algrim had lived in Columbia when she taught at the University of the Andes, located in Bogota, Columbia.
Wilson Algrim attended Howell Public Schools for a short time, but since he had never gone to school in Columbia, he was far behind his classmates.
Consequently, he was sent to Michigan Youth Challenge Academy at Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, near Battle Creek. The program gives students a lot of help with tutoring and vocational education.
Wilson Algrim graduated from that program in 2004 and eventually became part of the Michigan Army National Guard.
The family's pastor, the Rev. Mark Franck of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Howell Township — the service was held at Howell Nazarene Church to accommodate a large crowd — said Wilson Algrim was able to overcome his struggles. "When he locked in, he could accomplish anything," Franck said.
Wilson Algrim's family was smiling after the service, reflecting on the fun times spent with the soldier.
Judy Algrim remembers, after much searching, acquiring a Spanish version of the movie "Toy Story" when Wilson Algrim was a child. The thing was, the Algrims also had the English version, too.
"He put in the Spanish (version) and said 'There's something wrong, it's in Spanish,' " she said, adding he then started looking for loose wires, thinking the TV was on the fritz. Lisa Algrim, 15, said she'll never forget playing basketball and swimming with him. Janét and Wilson Algrim enjoyed going to the movies often, and Jason and his brother used to pretend they were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Don had some parting words for his son.
"We're proud of him and we love him," he said after the service. "He was a great hero."