Nevada Guard to honor comrades killed in shooting

Sep 11 2011 - 6:49pm

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- The Nevada National Guard will hold a private memorial in Carson City to remember three colleagues killed in the worst mass shooting in the capital's history.

Those honored in the service Sunday will be Maj. Heath Kelly, Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, and Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege, who was promoted to the rank of master sergeant posthumously.

The three were killed when 32-year-old Eduardo Sencion stormed an IHOP restaurant with an assault rifle Tuesday. Sencion shot a total of 11 people before killing himself in the parking lot.

One other person died in the eight-minute rampage: Florence Donovan-Gunderson, 67, of South Lake Tahoe. Her husband, retired Marine Wally Gunderson, and two Guard members were among the injured.

The loss of the guardsmen, gunned down while having breakfast, took an emotional toll on Nevada's tight-knit military community, which has seen thousands of soldiers and airmen deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade. Tuesday's death toll on domestic soil matched those lost in foreign combat over the past 10 years.

Besides Sunday's tribute, private funeral services were held over the weekend for Kelly, 35, and McElhiney, 31. Both lived in Reno.

Extra military chaplains from California and Utah were brought in to help, Nevada Guard Maj. April Conway said.

"Chaplains and unit ministry teams from California and Utah are assisting family members of the deceased, soldiers and family members of the injured and Guard members who may feel the need to talk it out," Conway said.

"That's what the National Guard does. We take care of our own," she said. "You tend to do what families do. You close in, you keep it local."

Kelly, a father of two, was a commander at the Guard's Joint Force Headquarters in Carson City. A decorated field artillery officer and avid student of military history, he served in Iraq in 2004-2005 while on active Army duty.

McElhiney was an administrative sergeant who had been in the Guard for 13 years. She baked birthday, wedding and graduation cakes for anyone who asked, and often brought cupcakes for her colleagues to celebrate promotions and special occasions.

Riege, a father of four, was a fitness buff who had also been in the Navy. Riege's military occupation was armor crewman, and he served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010. His body was flown to Nebraska at his family's request for private services there.

Sunday's ceremony capped an emotional day of reverence as the nation also observed the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Authorities, meanwhile, were still trying to compile a profile of Sencion, described by family and those who knew him as a quiet but friendly man who worked in his family's South Lake Tahoe market.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said Sencion had a history of mental health problems and had been on long-term medication, but had no criminal history.

Records show South Lake Tahoe police took Sencion into protective custody during a mental health commitment in April 2000 and that he fought with officers. He was not charged.

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