Tyler Ziegel with wife Reneé holding scissors.
Tyler W. Ziegel
October 16, 1982
Peoria, Illinois, United States
|Died||December 26, 2012 (aged 30)|
Illinois, United States
|Occupation||United States Marine|
|Spouse(s)||Renée Kline (2006–2007)|
Tyler Ziegel was born in Peoria, Illinois and was the eldest of two sons of Jeffrey and Rebecca Ziegel. Tyler's father worked in construction, his mother was a waitress. After school Ziegel joined the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2003, after boot camp, he was sent to Iraq.
On December 22, 2004, Marine Sgt. Ziegel and six other marines were part of a convoy coming back to Al Asad Air Base from al-Qaim, northwestern Iraq, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device near their truck.
Ziegel survived but suffered serious injuries: left arm was later amputated below the elbow, three fingers of his right hand were lost, in place of the thumb the big toe was transplanted; Ziegel became blind in one eye; his ears, nose and lips were burnt off. He also had shrapnel in his skull and a hole in the bone above the brow. For future use part of Ziegel's skull was implanted into the fatty tissues of the upper part of his body and artificial plate was placed instead of it. Ziegel also lost his tear duct, replaced by a prosthesis. As well, some parts of the face that were lost failed to recover even after more than 30 surgeries.
On October 7, 2006, shortly after discharge from the hospital, Ziegel married Renée Kline, whom he met before being sent to Iraq. Their wedding was widely reported by the press in the United States, and their marriage day was declared a holiday in Illinois. The wedding was attended by American photographer Nina Berman. She took a series of shots, one of which won First Prize among portraits on World Press Photo. A year after the wedding Ziegel and Kline divorced. The reason for the divorce, according to them, was the haste with which they were married, and ill-considered decision to marry.
After the tragedy Ziegel tried to live a socially active life. He was not able to work and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid him benefits. However, in 2007 Ziegel had to start a dispute with the VA over the size of the monthly compensation. Instead of the expected $4000 initially he was awarded $2700, which, according to Ziegel, was not enough to comfortably raise a family. Then Ziegel took part in a CNN program "Special Investigations Unit", after which his financial demands were met. That program attracted attention of a wide audience: a large number of people expressed their support to Ziegel. Among them was a World War II veteran Hershel Williams – a retired United States Marine, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
In February 2013 the Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn in his State of the State address referred to the history of Ziegel as an example of the courage needed to state legislators. He said: "What we all need in this coming session is courage, real political courage to do the right thing. We don't need to look any further for examples of courage than our men and women in uniform. Men like Sergeant Tyler Ziegel, a proud Marine who grew up in Metamora, Illinois ..."
In early May 2013, after an investigation of Ziegel's death, Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll said that death was caused by alcohol and drug intoxication, not by the fall. The analysis showed that Ziegel had a blood alcohol level of .123 and a level of morphine indicating the presence of heroin was 540 ng/ml. None of these values are lethal in themselves. The cause of death, according to Ingersoll, was the combination of these substances. Coroner's jury acknowledged that Ziegel's death was accidental.
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