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National Guard soldier laid to rest: Linde remembered as prankster, family man

North Dakota National Guard Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk receives a flag to present to family members during the burial of Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde on Tuesday in Sidney, Mont.

SIDNEY, Mont. -- More than 600 people gathered Tuesday to celebrate the life of North Dakota National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde, who was remembered as much as a prankster and family man as a decorated soldier and hero.

"I decided God took Darren from us because heaven was getting too boring," his wife, Adrienne Linde, said during the funeral in Linde's hometown of Sidney. "They needed a practical jokester."

Although Adrienne said she and their four children and one granddaughter are devastated, they are thankful for the lifetime of


"I have never been more proud of my husband than I am now," Adrienne said.

Linde, 41, Devils Lake, and Spc. Tyler Orgaard, 20, Bismarck, were killed Dec. 3 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan as they were clearing a road of explosives. Orgaard's funeral is Thursday in Bismarck.

Spc. Ian C. Placek, 23, Bismarck, a member of the unit injured in the same attack, attended Linde's funeral, sitting in the front row in a wheelchair next to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Linde, a member of the North Dakota National Guard 818th Engineer Company based in Williston, beamed with pride when he was in uniform, his wife said.

"And he looked pretty hot, too," Adrienne said during the service at the Richland County Event Center at the Richland County Event Center.

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk said Linde's colleagues who continue to serve in Afghanistan regarded Linde as a seasoned veteran and mentor who set high standards for himself and others.

Linde, who served more than 17 years in the military, had a playful and lighthearted side that lifted other soldiers' spirits and made people gravitate to him, Sprynczynatyk said.

As one of the older members of the unit, Linde had nicknames such as "Gramps" and "Papa Bear" for the father-like role he played. Adrienne once sent toy singing bears to two of Linde's soldiers so they could tease him, Sprynczynatyk said.

"Sgt. 1st Class Linde was truly a gift to so many in so many ways," Sprynczynatyk said.

Lt. Col. David Johnson, a chaplain who officiated the service, said he got to know Linde when they served together in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. Linde was a proud husband, father and grandfather, Johnson said.

"He meant the world to his fellow soldiers but even more he meant the world to his family," Johnson said.

In addition to his wife, Linde's survivors include his daughters, Celina Linde of Devils Lake, Kayla Propp of Fairview, Mont., and Alexis Fleener of Devils Lake; his son, Eric Paul Linde of Devils Lake, N.D.; his father, Dwight Linde of Williston; and his mother, Debbie Buxbaum of Sidney.

Fleener and Propp sang songs for their father that were recorded and played during the service, including an original song Fleener wrote for her father. Fleener also sang live "Heaven Was Needing a Hero."

The service closed with the rock song "My Sacrifice" by Creed, which friends said was Linde's favorite song.

The community of Sidney saluted their hometown hero and former volunteer firefighter with an American flag flying from a firetruck, flags lining city streets and a man who stood on a hill with a flag to salute mourners on the way to the cemetery.

Hundreds attended a burial ceremony at the Sidney Cemetery, where Sprynczynatyk presented American flags to members of Linde's family.

Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp, who also spoke during the funeral, said thousands of North Dakotans will never forget Linde's sacrifice.

"Darren is the reason we are free. Darren is the reason we are safe," Heitkamp said. "And Darren is the reason why I'm proud to call this country and North Dakota my home."