One of Monroe’s own dies in Afghanistan
The death of U.S. Army Maj. Paul Voelke remains under investigation
MONROE — As a kid, Paul Voelke had his sights set on West Point for as long as anyone can remember. He always wanted to go there, his friends say. And he always wanted to serve his country in the Army afterward.
He got what he wanted. The Monroe resident, who graduated from Monroe-Woodbury in 1994, earned his place at the U.S. Military Academy. Then he earned his way to the rank of major in the Army after graduating from West Point in 1998.
And now he returns, this time to be buried at his beloved West Point after being killed in Afghanistan last Friday. He was 36 years old.
Voelke’s death is under investigation by the Army. It is described as non-combat-related, and no further details will be released until the investigation is complete. (See accompanying story.)
What is known, though, is that Voelke lived his entire life serving others – his school, his town, his country.
At Monroe-Woodbury, he was a member of the National Honor Society, was among the district’s gifted and talented students, and was in the Interact Club, which focuses on community service. He was also a superior delegate for the school’s Model United Nation’s Club. He was a well-rounded student who also did well on the cross country and winter track teams.
It came as no surprise to anyone that West Point wanted Paul Voelke as much as he wanted West Point. He graduated in 1998 and went on to serve in the Army for 14 years, rising to the rank of major. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart in Georgia.
During his service to his country, he did two tours of duty in Iraq and was in the middle of his second deployment to Afghanistan at the time of his death. He had been awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and an Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
75 flags for the neighborhood
But local residents know more about what kind of dad and husband he was than his bravery on the battlefield. When word got out that one of Monroe’s own died in Afghanistan, friends and acquaintances recalled that guy. The guy who married his childhood sweetheart, Traci. The guy who had two children he adored. The guy who took his family back home to Monroe for a visit whenever he could.
“He was a dedicated Army officer,” said one family friend of more than 20 years, who didn’t want her name used here. “But more important, he was a wonderful father and husband. All we can do now is be grateful for his service to our country.”
One Monroe resident brought her 75 flags to be given out in the neighborhood where Voelke grew up. They will be there when his family returns from a memorial service now being held by his regiment in Fort Stewart. Another service will be held in Monroe at a date to be announced.
Meanwhile, flags are being flown at half-mast in the Village and Town of Monroe and in Albany in honor of Paul C. Voelke. He will be sorely missed.
Claudia Wysocki, Nancy Kriz and Beth Quinn contributed to this story.
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