My brother served with Tyler in the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, Company C. They were deployed to Western Iraq in 2004, where Tyler endured severe life-changing injuries as a result of a suicide bombing attack on Christmas Eve.
He survived horrific injury and more than 50 operations before returning home to his normal life. And then eight years later, he slipped, hit his head and died quietly, among friends and neighbors in Central Illinois. Newspaper reports -- both local and national -- covered his heroic story and even photojournalists took note of the boy-turned-man without a face but with more soul than most will ever imagine. He went to war for our country and then returned home to fight for VA rights. He loved his dogs and was sarcastic and kind to all. Life is a battle, indeed. But like I told my brother after hearing the news of Ty's passing, it's obvious he had another calling. Rest in peace, Marine Sergeant Tyler Ziegel.
Author, photographer and Columbia professor Nina Berman captured his story in pictures and words that are truthful and inspiring. "Why ask why?" blinks the neon bulbs in the photo below, taken by Nina on one of her visits to my hometown. It's a perfect question to ponder this quiet day.