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Michigan Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A soldier from west Michigan has been killed in the fighting in Afghanistan.

His family says Joseph VanDreumel of Jenison was helping to recover a disabled military vehicle when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Following his father and grandfather into the military wasn’t what Joseph VanDreumel initially planned as a career, until being laid off from a western Michigan furniture company prompted him to reconsider.

His father, Dennis VanDreumel, said his son found a fit in the Army as a corporal who recovered broken-down vehicles. During a recent visit to see his son and family in Germany, Dennis VanDreumel said his son, who grew up in western Michigan and graduated from Jenison High School in 1997, told him “he loved his job, he loved the Army.”

Joseph VanDreumel, 32, was helping recover a disabled mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP, in Afghanistan when he was killed by a roadside bomb, relatives said. Another soldier, Sgt. Matthew A. Harmon of Bagley, Minn., also died in Sunday’s blast, the Defense Department confirmed Tuesday.

Both men were part of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

“Joe just took me by surprise,” Dennis VanDreumel said of his son’s decision to join the Army last year after he lost his job. The married father of two had been building office systems for Zeeland-based office furniture and accessories maker Herman Miller Inc.

“He was laid off with the big downturn in 2008,” the elder VanDreumel said during a phone interview from his home in Raleigh, N.C. “He was … going to support his family all costs. He called me up one day and said, `Dad, I’m going to join the Army.”‘

His second career choice pleased both his father and father-in-law, Allen Greiner. The elder VanDreumel retired from the Navy after 24 years, and Greiner served 20 years with the Michigan Army National Guard. Joseph VanDreumel’s grandfather, Ken Phillips, served in the Air Force’s Presidential Flight Crew.

“Joseph served his country and his family with the highest level of honor and admiration,” his family said in a statement released by Greiner. “He will be truly missed by all whom have had contact with him.”

Before enlisting, Joseph VanDreumel lived with his wife, Sarah, and two children, 10-year-old Angel and 8-year-old Skyler, in the unincorporated community of Standale in Ottawa County’s Georgetown Township.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, the Republican congressman whose district includes the area, said the community would rally around and assist the family.

“It always brings a sinking feeling when I hear of the loss of one of our own brave servicemen,” Huizenga wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “We will continue to pray for our troops that fight to protect our freedoms every day.”

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Tuesday but Greiner said services are planned at Holy Spirit Church in Grand Rapids.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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