Saturday, May 8, 2010
WATERVILLE -- A Waterville Senior High School graduate died Thursday while serving in Afghanistan's Wardak province.
Spc. Wade A. Slack, 21, was with the Army's 707th Ordnance Battalion, of Fort Lewis, Wash., and specialized in defusing explosives, according to Gov. John Baldacci in a news release.
Slack attended Waterville Senior High from 2003 to 2007. He is the son of Alan and Rose Slack of Waterville and Mary Slack of Waterville.
Slack was killed soon after his squad had completed the disposal of an improvised explosive device and was waiting to be airlifted back to base, according to his father, Alan Slack. A shell exploded -- whether fired from a mortar or rocket wasn't immediately clear -- and shell fragments hit Slack, his father said Friday.
Alan Slack, a veterinarian at the New England Animal Hospital in Waterville, said Friday that his son "had been oriented for military service since 14" and that Wade enlisted while a senior in high school for specialized training that required "intelligence and a top-secret security background check."
"It's not something every person can qualify for," Alan Slack said. "He had been in Afghanistan the last 10 months. I saw him at Christmas, talked with him last weekend. He was very happy. I sent him a postcard every day."
Wade, his father said, "was always bright and cheerful" and "always trying to keep others' spirits up.
"He was always looking for the silver lining in any cloud," Alan Slack said.
Baldacci on Friday ordered flags lowered to half-staff on the day of Slack's funeral, the date of which had not been set.
Alan Slack said he and other immediate family members would be leaving early today to attend a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in the evening.
Wade Slack had been stationed at Fort Lewis. Last year he was promoted to specialist with a specialty in explosive ordnance disposal. Slack completed his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and his advanced individual training at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Robert Fletcher of Waterville, a longtime family friend, said Friday he was amazed at how quickly news of Slack's death had spread as friends learned the news through Facebook, text messages and phone calls. The result, he said, is that everybody was quickly able to start consoling each other.
"People got together really quickly," Fletcher said. "He was loved by many and liked by everyone."
Carole Dodge, assistant principal at the high school, recalled Slack as an honor student who was passionate and caring, who knew by high school that he wanted to serve in the military. Dodge said she had Slack as a student when she taught music at the junior high school.
"He died doing exactly what he wanted to do," Dodge said. "He was a great young man. He was focused and knew what he wanted in life."
At school, "he was a very nice person to everybody," she said, "just somebody you want to be around."
At The Last Unicorn -- where Slack worked on and off as a cook from 2005 to 2007 -- employees on Friday were hugging and comforting each other.
Michelle Cyr, owner of The Last Unicorn, said Slack's brothers and sisters also have worked at the restaurant -- and some still do. Slack, she said, was a "fine young man" who was an example to his siblings.
"He was the sweetest, kindest -- and brave," Cyr said. "It's so tragic. Anybody who knew him, they loved him."
As a specialist who disarmed explosives, "he saved so many lives," Cyr said.
Jason Ladd, a dishwasher at the restaurant, said he and Slack had been friends since Slack was 10. Ladd, who is seven years older, said he'll remember Slack as supportive friend who gave good advice and enjoyed video games, movies and shooting.
"I could talk with him any time. He always had an ear," Ladd said. "He was never judgmental -- just really wise beyond his years in a lot of respects."
Every time Slack came home on leave while in the Army, he would take time to visit as many friends and family members as possible, Ladd said.
"His family was the world to him," Ladd said.
According to Slack's MySpace page, which prominently features a background image of Batman from the movie "The Dark Knight," he liked "a lot of stuff," but "mostly my family, which includes my friends ... because if (you're) in the same business that I am, then you would understand that your friends are family."
A note posted Dec. 23, 2008, on his MySpace page said Slack was "happy to be home again," and another says Slack would like to meet "as many people as possible." Another note says "(Lest) we forget our sacrifices" above a bird's eye image of soldiers forming words: "9-11 -- We Remember."
In a statement, Baldacci said Friday that he had spoken with Slack's parents.
"We can never take for granted the service of our men and women in uniform," Baldacci said. "They are the best among us and sacrifice for their country and their communities. Our prayers go out to Spc. Slack's family and friends.
"He loved his family and he loved his country," Baldacci added. "He was a dedicated soldier who served his country with honor. All of Maine mourns his passing."
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, said in a statement that Maine "has a long tradition of coming together during a crisis, and I know the entire Waterville community and all Mainers will join me in assisting Wade's family with whatever they need during this difficult time."
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said in a statement that Wade "tragically gave his life defending our nation with limitless courage" and that "we owe him a debt of immeasurable gratitude that we can never repay, and must never forget."
Scott Monroe -- 861-9253 By Scott Monroe firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in December when Wade was home visiting his family and friends, I had the gift of meeting him. He walked through the door of a restaurant he had grown up working in years before. Two things caught my attention. First, he had on a uniform. Second, he looked like his younger brothers. Both boys are friends with our son Zack. I introduced myself, shook his hand. He shared that he indeed was Andrew and Johns older brother, and was home for a short visit before returning to Afghanistan. I told him our oldest son was currently in Germany but would soon be heading to Afghanistan himself. Sweet Wade, having never met me before that very moment, could see in my mothers eyes my concern for my son and all he would be soon facing. He knew. Wade knew. He knew first hand what Benjamin would soon be living on a daily, 24/7 basis, because he himself had just come from it, and would soon be going back too.
And he also knew my mothers heart. Even though he had just met me only moments before, he reached out his hand placed it on my arm and said, "He'll be fine. "
I can't begin to explain the comfort that I felt in my heart at that moment. The gratefulness that young soldier gave this mom.
Thank you Wade. Spc. Slack. Thank you for who you were to your family, friends, and to your country. Your life was one of love, compassion, giving, caring, hard working, sacrifice...
Words will never be enough to express how grateful I feel to have met and known you.
Hugs from Maine