By Agrippina Fadel
Killed in Iraq 15 years ago by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, a soldier’s legacy lives on thanks to the nonprofit created in his memory.
On Jan. 7, 2007, Air Force technical sergeant Sergeant Timothy Weiner was killed near Bagdad, Iraq, where he was trained to safely dispose of bombs and maintain safe passage for convoys vehicles. He left behind a wife and a teenage son.
Only 35 at the time, Sgt. Weiner was three years away from retirement. A Tamarac resident since he was eight, he graduated from Piper High School in Sunrise.
His sister Karyn Plante, a former nurse with Upstate Medical University Hospital’s vascular access team in Syracuse, NY, wanted to honor his memory by doing something he would have approved of, creating the Sgt. Timothy Weiner Fund, which helped countless families over the years. The fund supports the Central New York Cleft and Craniofacial Center, which provides surgery and care for children with cleft palates and other facial deformities.
Plante said some of the funds went to individual families who needed equipment in their homes to care for their children. The fund also paid for improvements in the clinic, including a play area, to make it more friendly for the young patients.
A tragic incident her brother experienced in Iraq inspired Plante to create a fund for children with facial deformities. A few years before his death, he defused an improvised explosive device (IED) near the Iraqi village which was supposed to be evacuated.
“A five-year-old girl had hidden and ended up being injured. Tim felt awful about it because he was the one who gave the order to detonate the device. When I was trying to think of something to do in his honor, I decided to start the fund to help other children,” she said.
After 15 years, the fund had enough donations and investments to become endowed, so her brother’s legacy will live on for years to come.
As one of the three members of the 775th Civil Engineer Squadrons Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight, he was killed along with Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki, 23, of New Castle, Delaware, and Senior Airman Daniel B. Miller Jr., 24, of Galesburg, Illinois.
Sgt. Weiner’s three older brothers had a career in the military, in the Coast Guard, Army, and Special Forces.
“Tim had always wanted to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and join the military,” said Plante. “I am into scrapbooks and have all the family pictures, so I remember early photographs of him as a little boy wearing camouflage clothes and playing with airplanes.”
She added that Sgt. Weiner was taken with the Air Force, and at one point, thought about becoming a pilot but then became interested in defusing bombs.
After his death, the army sent the family the camera he carried the day he died — one of the things Sgt. Weiner did as a squad leader was to photograph the bombs the team defused.
“…So the final picture on the roll was of the bomb that killed him. But we also got to see the very last picture of him taken just a couple of days prior. It was great to get those memories, but still very hard to see those photographs,” she added.
Plante retired from her nursing job but returned to work two years ago at the Upstate University Hospital COVID-19 Hotline.
She said another way she honors her brother’s memory is by participating in “Operation Noble Foster,“ a program that finds foster homes for animals of deployed servicemen.
After fostering two cats for a serviceman who had to leave for nine months with no one else to take care of them, his tour kept getting extended, and she ended up caring for his cats for over a year.
“It was something meaningful I felt I needed to do in Tim’s memory. He absolutely loved cats, and I knew he would be proud of me for that, even though my children thought I was nuts. We had four cats or our own at the time, and they told me I am one cat away from qualifying as a crazy cat lady.”
She and her family are proud of Sgt. Weiner’s sacrifice and remember his heroism.
“Tim was my baby brother; I was 13 when he was born. When he was little, I helped to take care of him. Losing him was really tough,” she added.
We tried to get in touch with Sgt. Weiner’s widow and teenaged son, however, according to Plante, Sgt. Weiner’s wife cut off all communication with the family shortly after the funeral.
“My mother’s dying regret was that she didn’t get to see her grandson in all those years. When she died in 2016, it took a lawyer for us to find him. At that time, he was at school in Arizona.”
To donate to Sgt. Timothy Weiner’s Fund in care of the Upstate Medical University Foundation visit here.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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