Mr. Speaker, the three words from the official seal of the United States Army states: ``This we'll defend.'' Sergeant Bill Meeuwsen was a member of the Army and he died carrying out this motto, defending the United States of America.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Sergeant Bill Meeuwsen. He was truly a remarkable person. Bill was born in Mount Vernon, Washington, on February 10, 1981, and when he was 10 years old, he and his family found their way to southeast Texas and moved to Kingwood, Texas. He attended Kingwood High School, one of the finest high schools in this country, and he graduated in 1999.

He went on to Texas A&M University, and he and some of his friends enlisted in the United States Army as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001. His father Mike said ``Bill strongly believed that we all share a responsibility to serve on behalf of God and country, to protect freedoms we all cherish so deeply.'' It was that sense of patriotism that led him to enter the United States Army.

Bill was initially deployed with the renowned Band of Brothers to Camp Giant, near the Korean demilitarized zone in March of 2003. A year later, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was there he married his wife, Lauren Lynn, on August 18, this year, 2005. She was the daughter of a Colonel who was also serving in Iraq.

Bill was then deployed to Iraq just 3 months later, in October of 2005. Two months after that, on the day before Thanksgiving this year, Sergeant Bill Meeuwsen was one of two soldiers killed in action when his unit came under direct fire near Baghdad. He was the 186th Texan killed in Iraq since the war began. One out of every ten people serving in the United States military today is from the State of Texas.

Mr. Speaker, Bill is remembered as a person who loved his friends and family. He enjoyed playing basketball with his buddies, and he had compassion for animals. When he was growing up, he used to hide animals in his home. His friends and family will never forget his friendly and ever-present smile.

He had a great sense of humor and a way of making anyone around him feel comfortable. His father, Mike, spoke of his sense of adventure and interest in exploring other countries and cultures, which he was doing by fulfilling his Army experience.

While in Iraq, Bill spoke with his wife, Lauren, and parents, Mike and Thresa frequently. In one of his most recent conversations, he was upbeat and excited about his unit's recent success in the field in Iraq. He felt strongly they were accomplishing their mission and goal, making a difference in Iraq for those people. A week before he died, he sent home this photograph of him taking a break in Iraq enjoying tea in the Iraqi custom.

Mr. Speaker, here is a photograph of Bill shortly before he was killed in active duty in Iraq. It shows this big man, this big son of America, taking a break while on duty in Iraq for his country and for the people of Iraq.

During another conversation with his mother Thresa, she was crying when she spoke with her son because Bill's platoon had recently suffered four casualties, and she was worried how he was handling this. But Bill was very clear in his response to his mother. He told his mother, ``Mom, you do not need to cry for the soldiers who were killed. They are all in heaven. They were good men. They died doing what they wanted to do. Cry for their families.'' Wise words from one of America's sons.

His clear and matter-of-fact responses have been a tremendous source of comfort to his wife and to his parents since his death.

While Bill was stationed in Korea before he went to Iraq, he met a man named Ahn. Ahn was a sergeant in the South Korean Army. He and Bill made quick friends. They made an odd pair since Ahn was relatively short and Bill was 6 foot 4 inches tall. On numerous weekends the two of them would catch the train to Seoul, South Korea, where they explored the city, and Ahn helped Bill learn the customs of the Korean people. Bill even got to go to Ahn's parents' home.

After he learned of Bill's passage, Ahn sent a heartfelt letter in broken English to the Meeuwsen family in Texas. It reads in part: ``There is an old Korean saying that `too nice and good person tends to be taken by God earlier than usual.' I strongly sure that Holy Father have special plan to brighten the heaven with Mr. Meeuwsen.''

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that heaven is already brighter with Bill up there, and I would like to extend my prayers and our condolences to his parents, Mike and Thresa, to his relatives, his friends, the community of Kingwood, Texas, his wife, Laura Lynn. Sergeant Meeuwsen touched so many lives in his 24 years. He was a freedom fighter, he was an Aggie, a son of proud parents, a member of the band of brothers, an American warrior, and an inspiration to all patriots. His patriotism and heroism and his life will not be forgotten. He paid for freedom with his life. He paid for our safety with his blood, and he paid for our future years with his youth.

When I talked to Sergeant Meeuwsen's father, Mike, about what his son believed in and his reasons for his personal involvement in Iraq, he said this: ``I am here for God, country, and freedom.''

Mr. Speaker, that says it all.

God bless Bill and God bless our troops and God bless America. That is just the way it is.