Michael Alleman had a simple reason for joining the Army and going to Iraq: He wanted to be a hero.
He loved his country so much he was willing to leave behind his wife and two sons and a comfortable job teaching fifth-grade at Nibley Elementary School to serve it.
BHe had this big picture of George Washington above the white board and he always pointed and said >I want to be like him. I want to be a hero,?C said Spencer Frandsen, one of Alleman?s students last year.
Alleman was killed Monday while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq, leaving behind his wife Amy and their sons, 6-year-old Kai and 4-year-old Kennet. He was one of three soldiers killed Monday in Balad when insurgents attacked their unit using small arms fire, according to the Department of Defense. He was the first Utah soldier killed in Iraq since 2007.
The 31-year-old left his teaching position midway through the 2007-08 school year to enlist. He completed basic training in May 2008, spent several months stationed in Alaska and was deployed to Iraq in September, said his sister, Marie Medrano.
His family and friends remembered him as a man passionate about his patriotism and devoted to his country. He relished teaching American history in his classes, said Tiernan Dunmeyer, a fifth-grade teacher who worked alongside Alleman at Nibley Elementary.
BIt was more than just joining the military for him,C Dunmeyer said. BIt was conveying a sense of commitment to the country, which was part of the curriculum he taught.C
Former students praised him as an engaging teacher who cared deeply about every student.
BHe was nice, and he was fun and he did everything in his power to make everybody feel included and happy,C said sixth-grader Kennedy Tuddenham, who was in Alleman?s class last year.
BHe taught school in a fun way, an exciting way,C said Tanner Nielsen, another of Alleman?s former students.
Alleman didn?t mention his plan to become a soldier to his colleagues at Nibley Elementary until just before leaving, said Michael Torrey, a fifth-grade teacher at the school. The news that he was choosing to walk away from a comfortable teaching position to serve wasn?t very surprising considering his patriotism and sense of duty, Torrey said.
BMichael was the type of guy to go right up there in the front lines, and it doesn?t surprise me that he would choose to join the Army midway through the school year,C Dunmeyer said.
The news that their teacher was leaving was tough for some of Alleman?s students.
BI went home and bawled,C said 12-year-old Carly Richins. BI was sad. I was nervous.C
The news that Alleman had died hit even harder.
BIt went through my head that it just couldn?t be,C said seventh-grader Nick Hudson, who was in Alleman?s class two years ago.
Medrano described her brother as Bthe hardest working manC she had ever known. He was always working at least two jobs, often three. He loved the outdoors and he was intelligent and clever, she said.
Amy Alleman and her sons live in American Fork with Michael Alleman?s parents, Boyd and Susan Alleman.
Alleman was raised in Georgia and moved to Utah in 1998, Medrano said. He attended Utah State University, where he graduated with a degree in elementary education. He first met his wife, Amy, who was raised in Hyrum, when both were working at Macey?s in Logan, Medrano said.
Amy Alleman is the daughter of Claud and Rene Williams of Hyrum. Her father, Claud, is an assistant cross country coach at Mountain Crest High School.
On Wednesday morning, the cross country team ran to Williams? house to post an American flag on his lawn in honor of his fallen son-in-law and to sing the National Anthem, said Mountain Crest Vice-Principal Bob Henke.
The flag at Nibley Elementary and others around the valley are now at half staff in Alleman?s honor, and the school had a moment of silence Wednesday morning. The Cache Valley chapter of the group Blue Star Mothers has requested that all flags be flown at half staff in his honor.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been planned. A fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank to support Amy Alleman and her sons, and donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch. Henke said a 5K race has been scheduled for April to raise money for the family.