Minnesota soldier killed in Iraq

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Pionk, 30, had been in the Army for nine years and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

"Matthew was a great American soldier," Duane Pionk said Thursday, adding that his son always helped the downtrodden and others in need. "He was just a wonderful humanitarian in that way. The people in life that always had problems - he was there to help them."

The Department of Defense hasn't released details of Pionk's death. Pionk's father said he was told his son died as he led five other soldiers into a house where a bomb had been planted.

"He was a platoon sergeant. He led a squad of five people into a building to clear a building, and the terrorists, they had planted a bomb in there and they remotely detonated it after he was in there," said Duane Pionk, of Superior, Wis.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

The Associated Press has reported that six soldiers were killed yesterday in a booby-trapped house in Diyala. It was not immediately clear whether this was the same attack that led to Pionk's death.

Pionk was a native of Oliver, a small town near Superior, and graduated from high school in Superior in 1996. He recently moved with his wife and three kids to Eveleth, on Minnesota's Iron Range.

Pionk's father also said his son earned a Bronze Star during his first tour of duty for helping a fellow soldier who was injured.

"We're very proud of him," Pionk said. "He was a wonderful father. He was a wonderful son. And he was a wonderful soldier."

The Duluth News Tribune reported that Matthew Pionk served with the 3rd Cavalry, 2nd Squadron, based out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

Pionk is the 69th person with strong Minnesota ties to die in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's the third person with Wisconsin ties to die in Iraq in five days.

Funeral services were set for Friday for another Minnesota soldier. Army Pfc. Joshua R. Anderson, 24, of Jordan, died Jan. 2 in Kamasia, Iraq, when an explosive went off near his vehicle.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)