Michael Hermanson volunteered to serve in Iraq. He was with an Engineer Combat Battalion based in Minot, North Dakota. Hermanson's unit was clearing roadside bombs when it was attacked. Hermanson was single.
His parents, Layne and Scharlotta, and a sister, Lindsey, live in Fargo. Sgt. Dave Somdahl of the North Dakota National Guard says the family is in shock.
"They are dealing with the loss of their oldest child, and they're trying to understand everything that happened with very little information that's available right now," says Somdahl.
Hermanson grew up in Fargo. He attended local schools, including two years at Oak Grove Lutheran school. Steve Carnal, a teacher at Oak Grove, taught Hermanson for two years. Carnal says Hermanson was the kind of student who is hard to forget.
It's very noble what he did, to go out there and risk his life, just to serve and protect our country.
"Michael was one of those young men who had a big smile on his face all the time, and he would just light up the room when he walked in," says Carnal. "He was a very polite, hard-working young man. He had a lot of friends in school, teachers loved him, just a great young man."
Carnal says Hermanson spent two years at Oak Grove before transferring to Fargo North High School. Carnal says Hermanson made a strong impression on many of his teachers.
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"For the teachers that have been here for a while it's pretty somber, because the war in Iraq has become a little more personal because of this," Carnal says. "I talked with my middle school classes today about who Michael was, and they seemed to understand that we lost a good friend and a former student, so it has become very personal today."
The memories of a happy, smiling young man are what those who knew Michael Hermanson are remembering. Mike Allen says Hermanson was one of his best friends.
"It's very noble what he did, to go out there and risk his life, obviously, just to serve and protect our country," says Allen.
Members of the Hermanson family say they're not ready to talk about the death of their son. Sgt. Dave Somdahl has been assigned by the National Guard to field media inquiries for the family. Somdahl says the family has received numerous phone calls and visits from friends and family.
"Those demonstrations of love and concern are going to continue, and that helps a little," says Somdahl. "That helps them know that every life that they have touched in one way or another will come back to them with some measure of gratitude and thanks."
Spec. Michael Hermanson is the eighth member of the North Dakota National Guard to die in Iraq. Four active duty soldiers have also died there.