Twenty-seven year old Kevin Witte was from Beardsley, but he hadn't lived there in some time. Still, the news of his death hit Beardsley hard. The west-central Minnesota town near the South Dakota border has a population of about 250. It's a close-knit community and it's hard to find someone who doesn't know the Witte family. Witte joined the Army shortly after he graduated from Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley High School in 1997.
Chris Walters met Witte in high school. He was a year younger than Witte, but the two still became good friends.
"He was a really great guy. You could never know enough people like Kevin, always there for you when you needed him, had your back, someone you could sit down and talk to if anything was bothering you," he said.
Walters says Witte was known for his artistic talent. He says Witte could draw portraits, and anything else, effortlessly.
"You could throw him a pack of colored pencils or even just an ink pen and a notebook, whatever would come to his mind, he'd just start drawing it. He just was excellent at it. I don't know how to do anything like that, so it just kind of amazed me how someone can sit down and just whatever comes in their head, just be able to draw it out on paper exactly how you see it in your mind," he said.
Despite Witte's artistic talent, Walters says he always knew his friend wanted to join the military. Walters recalled Witte inviting him to a weekend at Camp Ripley that was designed to give young men exposure to the armed forces.
"We went up there and you could just see that's what he wanted to do. The whole day we were up there and they were showing us around. You just knew that's what he wanted to do, was he wanted to join the military," he said.
Witte was a squad leader assigned to a combat team with the First Armored Division based in Germany. He re-enlisted last year. During his time in the army, Witte had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was in his second tour in Iraq when he suffered fatal injuries last month after a bomb exploded near his vehicle during combat patrol. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Witte is survived by his wife and son, his mother, step-mother and six brothers and sisters. Funeral services will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Beardsley.