ISU's Gold Star Ceremony honors fallen Storm Lake pilot who died in Afghanistan in May


AMES, Iowa – A former Iowa State University student from Storm Lake who died in May in Afghanistan will be honored by the university on Veterans Day.

Chief Warrant Officer Deric Rasmussen was the son of former Storm Lake residents Diane and Phil Rasmussen, Omaha. He died May 11, 2014, in a non-combat incident while serving as a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk pilot in Mazer-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. Rasmussen was 33 years old.

Deric Rasmussen and four other former students who died in military service will be remembered during Iowa State’s Gold Star Hall Ceremony, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, in the Memorial Union Great Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Former students are eligible for name placement in the Gold Star Hall — the war memorial in the university's Memorial Union — if they graduated from or attended Iowa State full time for one or more semesters, and died while in military service in a war zone. As names become known, they are added to the wall and the soldiers are remembered in the university's annual ceremony.

Iowa State has been able to memorialize Rasmussen with help and materials from his mother and sister, Jenny Rasmussen Donner, Seattle.

A young life remembered

Rasmussen was born on Nov. 2, 1980, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the younger of two children. He and sister Jenny, who was 15 months older, were inseparable while growing up. When Rasmussen was two, the family moved to Storm Lake. His mother remembers him as a toddler with red hair bleached blonde by the sun, a freckled nose and perpetual sunburn.

Throughout his childhood, Rasmussen loved “things that go.” As a first grader, he discovered electric trains, which eventually took over the Rasmussen basement and provided hours of entertainment. During warm weather, the family’s cul-da-sac was his runway. He experimented with sails made of sheets, even enlisting the family’s dog to pull him down the street on a skateboard, his sail billowing behind him.

In middle school, Rasmussen began building radio-controlled airplanes. The hobby grew into a passion for aviation that would eventually shape his career. A few years later, he won a free airplane ride and began volunteering with the local Civil Air Patrol.

In high school, Rasmussen played baritone in the jazz, pep and marching bands. He also flourished in speech contests and drama performances. He graduated from Storm Lake High School in 1999.

Rasmussen entered Iowa State University as a psychology major, attending the university for three semesters between 1999 and 2002. He became lifelong friends with his roommate, Adam Straw. Their friendship grew out of a shared love of hiking and backpacking, which they discovered through the university’s outdoor Recreation Services program. They served as best men in each other’s weddings and had planned a backpacking trip together for this past summer once Rasmussen returned from Afghanistan.

In 2001, Rasmussen earned a carpentry certificate from Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. He lived and worked in Ames before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in January 2003.

Service to country


Rasmussen initially served in the Marine Corps signals intelligence. He was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, and Camp Pendleton, California. Rasmussen was deployed to Iraq in 2007, Jordan in 2008, and was assigned to an anti-piracy mission aboard the USS Boxer in 2009. His ship supported the rescue of Captain Phillips and his crew after their ship was taken hostage by Somali pirates.

In 2011, Rasmussen pursued his lifelong dream to become a pilot, transferring services to the U.S. Army. He earned his wings in 2012 following training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, and was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade as a member of a MEDEVAC unit in Fort Hood, Texas.  They were deployed to northern Afghanistan in October 2013.

When Rasmussen died a few months later in May, he was 49 days away from returning home.

He is survived by his wife, Jennavieve; three children; Seamus, 3, Avey, 2, and O.J., eight months, all of Dallas, Texas; his parents; his sister, Jenny (who graduated from Iowa State in 2002) and brother-in-law Erik Donner of Seattle, Washington; as well as many friends, aunts, uncles and cousins.