Hometown Heroes

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." --Winston Churchill 

The Panther Battalion honors those who have fallen.

Hibbs2LT Robert Hibbs - Medal of Honor Recipient

In the summer of 2000, ROTC cadets and cadre conducted a ceremony to honor 2nd Lt. Robert J. Hibbs who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War. While Lt. Hibbs is not a graduate of the ROTC  program, a permanent memorial in his honor is present in the Department of Military Science.

In 1964 Robert Hibbs, a Cedar Falls resident, graduated from UNI with a degree in history. After graduation he went through basic and infantry training at Ft. Benning, GA and then he went to Officer Candidate School. After being commissioned as a 2nd LT, he was shipped off to fight in the Vietnam War in 1965. A month before going home, he was leading a 5-man ambush. After successful attacks on two companies, Hibbs and a sergeant went back for a wounded soldier. When the sergeant and the soldier were heading back to friendly lines, Hibbs stayed to provide cover for them. While charging two machine gun emplacements, he was shot and mortally wounded. LT Hibbs was only 23 years old. Before dying he was able to destroy the telescopic sight attached to his M-16 rifle so the Viet Cong couldn't use it. In 1967, the Medal of Honor was presented to his mother for his courageous actions. In the Waterloo Courier of Feb. 28th, LTC DePuglio said the Army Officials were so impressed with Hibbs heroism they named the war's largest U.S military offensive, Operation Cedar Falls, in his honor. There also is a weapons range at Ft. Benning named the Hibbs Range.

For 34 years there had been very little recognition at UNI for Robert Hibbs courageous actions. A fund raising event was held to help raise money for a memorial which cost $17,000. The memorial was completed Summer of 2000 and is located in the field between the West Gym and the Campanile. A dedication ceremony for the memorial was held that fall.

Gineau2LT R. Brian Gienau

1976- 2005

2LT Gienau is survived by his mother Debbee Way of Dunkerton and father Richard Gienau of Waterloo. Lieutenant Gienau also has one son, Keenan.

Gienau graduated from Tripoli (Iowa) High School in 1994. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1994 and served as an Avionic Mechanic until 1998. Gienau enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard in November 1999. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2003 and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. through their Reserve Officers Training Corps in 2004. Gienau mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 224th Engineer Battalion in October 2004.

Gienau was killed when the up-armored Humvee in which he was traveling was hit by an improvised explosive device between Karbala and Ar Ramadi. He was assigned to the Iowa Army National Guard's Company A, 224th Engineer Battalion, in Burlington.

Gienau's death also revives another hard memory for the family and Tripoli community. Gienau's only sibling, a 14-year-old sister, Amanda, died in 1992 in a car accident. The girl was entering the ninth grade.

The Rev. John Fuller, the Prairie Lakes pastor, delivered the message Wednesday. He recounted Gienau's last church service before deploying, when he brought the lieutenant down in front of the congregation and prayed for his safety.

"The last thing we did for Brian, we cheered for him," Fuller said. "Our whole church clapped. It was the last time we saw him." Then, addressing the funeral assemblage, the pastor asked, "Can we do that now? Can we cheer for Brian right now?" With that invitation, every person in the sanctuary rose and clapped for nearly a minute for 2nd Lt. Brian Gienau, dead at 29 to a bomb along a road in Iraq.

Links to Gienau pages:



Gunnar NielsonCPT Matthew Gunnar Nielson

1984 - 2011

CPT Nielson is survived by his parents Roger and Chris Nielson and siblings Nate, Heather, Jakob, Kirsten, Teddi, Luke and Emily.

CPT Nielson attended the University of Northern Iowa where he was commissioned as a United States Army officer through the Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC. CPT Nielson graduated in May of 2008 and received his commission as a 2LT in the armor corps.

CPT Nielson was deployed in support of Operation New Dawn in 2010. Nielson was killed by wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire in Badrah, Iraq June 29, 2011. CPT Nielson was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas

Jason Gallardo was Nielson’s troop commander for 18 months. He said the fallen soldier was the kind of man who would give anything for his friends. “He was the most genuine, downright sweet guy. He was the officer we all wanted to be,” Gallardo said. “He was the best of all of us.” Gallardo concluded by addressing the fallen soldier: “Matthew, you’re the type of man who makes us proud to do this service,” he said. “You will be missed.”

CPT Matthew Nielson was laid to rest at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery near Van Meter.