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Marine Corps soldiers remove the casket of Sgt. Ian McConnell, of Woodbury, from a hearse Monday at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

McConnell remembered by friend, reverend

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Minnesota flags flew at half-staff Monday in honor of a 24-year-old Woodbury soldier who died earlier this month.

Ian Williams McConnell, an active duty Marine and 2005 Hill-Murray School graduate, died July 4. According to a news release from Gov. Mark Dayton's office, McConnell served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he performed explosive ordinance disposal.

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"Sgt. McConnell was compassionate and selfless and had a good sense of humor," according to a proclamation issued by Dayton.

His parents are Andy and Elizabeth McConnell. He was laid to rest Monday at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery after a service at Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Stillwater.

The press release did not state how McConnell died, though multiple sources confirmed he died of suicide at his San Diego residence.

The Rev. Jerry Doherty, who delivered the eulogy Monday, remembered McConnell as the warm, thoughtful young man who befriended his daughters and ran cross country.

"I can't think of a nicer kid," Doherty said.

McConnell had recently been accepted into Marine Corps Special Operations Command, the release states.

Military Times combat correspondent Dan Lamothe got to know McConnell while covering the Marjah, Afghanistan, patrol base he served at in 2010.

"He appeared to be the eternal optimist," Lamothe said Monday in an interview with the Bulletin.

News that he had died by his own hand came as a shock, he said.

"It stands completely contradictory to anything I knew him as," Lamothe said.

Still, he acknowledged that McConnell's job in the Marines - where he disarmed improvised explosive devices - was uniquely stressful. He said McConnell's job was nearly identical to the job profiled in the 2008 Oscar winning film "The Hurt Locker."

"It's widely considered to be among the most stressful jobs in the military," he said.

Doherty suspected memories from war likely were hard on McConnell.

"I think he's as much a victim in the war in Afghanistan as anyone who is blown up by a roadside bomb," he said. "There are so many casualties of war we don't see, and in a way I think this is one of them."

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Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
(715) 426-1072
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