Born: May 8, 1983
Fallen: January 20, 2006
Sergeant Dennis J. Flanagan lived in Exeter, RI as a child. His family moved to Inverness, FL where he joined the Army. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, in Fort Campbell, KY. He became a hero on January 20, 2006 at the age of 22 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations in Huwijah, Iraq.
Army Sergeant Flanagan was an infantryman assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment. He joined the Army in October 2001 and arrived at Fort Campbell in April 2002. Dennis was inspired to join the military after the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks, his mother said. “It was his life and we weren’t going to stop him,” Flanagan’s mother told the St. Petersburg Times. “We just wanted to be sure that was what was in his heart. There’s no doubt. In fact, we would have been surprised if he hadn’t joined.”
Flanagan graduated from Lecanto High School in spring 2001 and enrolled at Central Florida Community College before joining the military. The last time several Lecanto High School teachers saw Dennis, he resembled the teenager they remembered but exuded the maturity of a soldier. In full Army uniform, they recall how Flanagan had just returned from his first tour of duty in Iraq. Although he shared stories of the suffering he witnessed abroad, Flanagan maintained an unwavering commitment to military service. “We’ve had several students return, and they realize real quick that bravery is different in real life than in actual definition, and he knew,” said his high school physical education teacher. “He wasn’t scared.”
In high school, Flanagan was actively involved with the JROTC, moving up the ranks to become a First Lieutenant his junior year. Dennis is described as a “super student” who entered the JROTC with a military bearing, which he gained during his involvement with the Civil Air Patrol squadron. Unlike other freshmen, Flanagan already knew how to march and how to wear a uniform, earning a recommendation to a summer program at Camp Blanding, near Starke.
His superiors say that they will never forget how the sole of Flanagan’s shoe became detached, but Flanagan completed exercises including marching and rifle firing without complaint. “I said, “Why didn’t you tell anybody?”‘ his boss recalls. “He said, ‘I didn’t want to tell anybody. I didn’t want to make waves.'”
After high school, Flanagan initially attended Central Florida Community College but enlisted with the Army a week after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “He said he just couldn’t stand around and let this stuff happen to our country,” said a friend who graduated with Flanagan. “He didn’t feel comfortable just sitting back, which I think is admirable.”
Many educators said Flanagan was wise beyond his years and, unlike his peers, could step back and see the big picture. He understood that victory could not be attained without taking action. He refused to sit back and allow terrorism and brutality to takeover.
Army Sergeant Dennis Flanagan became a hero when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee near Hawijah, Iraq. He is survived by his father and mother of Inverness, FL.