US soldier killed saving Afghan girl

This won't make headlines in most of the Muslim world. Al-Jazeera won't mention it. President Karzai won't comment on it. And the Islamists in Pakistan might think it a plot of the devil.

But this simple act of self-sacrifice says more about the American soldier than a dozen massacres.


The official Pentagon news release says he died "from injuries suffered in a noncombat related incident." But there is much more to the story. Weichel, 29, of Providence, died saving the life of a little girl.

According to the Rhode Island National Guard and the U.S. Army, Weichel was in a convoy a week ago with his unit in Laghman Province, in northeast Afghanistan. Some children were in the road in front of the convoy, and Weichel and other troops got out to move them out of the way.

Most of the children moved, but one little girl went back to pick up some brass shell casings in the road. Afghan civilians often recycle the casings, and the girl appeared to aim to do that. But a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle was moving toward her, according to Lt. Col. Denis Riel of the Rhode Island National Guard.

MRAPs, as they are known, usually weigh more than 16 tons.

Weichel saw the massive truck bearing down on the girl and grabbed her out of the way. But in the process, the armored truck ran him over, Riel said.

The little girl is fine. Weichel died a short time later of his injuries.

"He was a big kid at heart. He always had a smile on his face, and he made everyone laugh," 1st Sgt. Nicky Peppe, who served with Weichel in Iraq, is quoted as saying in an Army story.

"But as much as Weichel was funny, he was also a professional. When it was time to go outside the wire for a combat patrol, he was all business."

It is doubtful that Weichel thought about the little girl's religion when he saved her. This puts his basic humanity light years beyond those who are perpetually outraged about one thing or another that non-believers do to upset the Muslim street. Might those same rioters learn a lesson from this hero about the value of life - all life?

They won't. But they should.