Brian P Prening

Brian Prening and his twin brother, Bill Jr., played football and fished together as kids and hunted and drank beers together when they grew up. After Brian”s death, Bill wore his brother”s camouflage shirt with the name “Prening” sewn above the right pocket. “It feels like half of me died”. Bill Jr. said. “He”s irreplaceable”. Brian Prening, 24, of Sheboygan, Wis., died Nov. 12 as a result of hostile action in Babil province, Iraq. He was based in Chicago. Brian Prening played football, ran track and wrestled in high school. He got an associates degree from Lake Shore Technical College and worked at Kohler Co. until he was called to active duty. He leaves behind a new wife, Amy, and a son, Alex. His wife is pregnant with the couple”s first child, due in May. “He was a really good all-around person”, said his mother, Debbie. “A lot of people depended on him. He was a real go-getter, really happy-go-lucky kind of guy”.

It was a moment in the woods of northern Wisconsin that made a group of grown men cry.

The men, clad in camouflage and hunting boots, helped Tyson Helton, a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, shoot a bear in the memory of a Plymouth Marine corporal killed in Iraq.

“We wanted to get that kid a bear so bad,” said Bill Prening Sr., 49, of Plymouth, the father of Cpl. Brian Prening. “It helped us heal a little bit. It made something good out of something bad.”

The Prening family pushed for legislation, signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle in January, allowing Wisconsin hunters who meet an untimely death to transfer accumulated preference points toward a hunting license to a child chosen by the dead hunter’s family.

The law was named for Brian Prening, 24, an ardent hunter who was killed by enemy fire Nov. 12, 2004, in Yusufiyah, Iraq, trying to help a fellow Marine with a jammed weapon during a firefight. Brian Prening served with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of the Marine Corps Reserve in Milwaukee.

Brian’s preference points were transferred to Tyson, who lives in Junction City. Bill Prening Sr., and Bill Prening Jr., of Sheboygan Falls, Brian’s twin brother, helped Tyson get his wish to go on a two-day bear hunt last month near Gleason, in Lincoln County.

During the hunt, Tyson used a .243-caliber rifle to bring down a 250-pound black bear with a single shot.

“To see the smile on his face after he got him, it was worth it,” said Bill Prening Jr., 26. “Hopefully, the smile will keep coming on other people’s faces who use the bill.”

The group tracked a bear that weighed more than 400 pounds for 12 hours Sept. 16, but were unable to get Tyson in a position to shoot the animal. The next day, they were able to corner the smaller bear up a tree, Tyson said.

“It was a dream to be able to go on a bear hunt and see what it’s all about,” Tyson said. “It was really something to see those guys have a heart for a kid like me.”

The state Department of Natural Resources gives hunters a preference point each year they apply for a license. Brian Prening had accumulated eight of nine points he needed to get a permit. The Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association assisted the Prening family in getting the law passed, Bill Prening Sr. said.

The Prenings were able to take Tyson on the hunt with the assistance of the Kippenberg Creek Kids lodge in Gleason, a nonprofit organization established to help terminally ill and handicapped children fulfill their wish to go on outdoor adventures, said founder Larry Breyer.

“It was probably one of the most emotional hunts I’ve ever been on,” said Breyer, 49, of Gleason.

Tyson rested the gun on Bill Prening Jr.’s shoulder to take the shot and Breyer made the moment more touching after the bear was on the ground, Bill Prening Sr. said.

“He (Breyer) comes up to me and goes, ‘We named the bear Brian after your son,'” Bill Prening Sr. said. “He’s got tears in his eyes and I’ve got tears in my eyes because it was emotional.”

Tyson said the hunt was physically demanding on him because he was bounced around as the men carried him, sometimes running with him over their shoulders to catch up with the bears.

Joe Hopfensperger, Tyson’s stepfather, also was on the hunt.

“When you find out how the bear tag came about, it was very, very emotional,” Hopfensperger said. “I’m very happy for Tyson. I want as many people to know about this as I can and that they know about Kippenberg Creek and the great things that they do for so many kids throughout the United States.”

Janet Hopfensperger, Tyson’s mother, said the cerebral palsy affects both of her son’s legs and his left arm.

“He likes to hunt and do things like that, but he’s pretty much not mobile,” Janet Hopfensperger said. “So, being able to have an opportunity like this, to have all these great men come together and help him make this dream come true to go bear hunting was a really big thing for him.”

A 24-year-old U.S. Marine from Plymouth died after being struck by small arms fire in Iraq, his family said Saturday.

The family of Cpl. Brian P. Prening says the Marines delivered news of his death Friday afternoon – the same day he died from his wounds after action in the Babil Province south of Baghdad. Prening had been assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division in Chicago.

Family members said Prening – a graduate of Plymouth High School – had just gotten married on Aug. 13 and was expecting his first child with his wife, Amy.

Amy had a son from another relationship that Brian Prening loved like his own, said Prening’s father, Bill Prening, of Plymouth. He said the family last spoke with Brian Prening about three weeks ago.

As winds in Iraq blew sand and dust and he spoke with his family, Brian Prening had his unborn child on his mind.

“He couldn’t wait to come home,” Bill Prening said. “He knew he had a baby coming. He was hoping to be home with his baby at that time.”

Bill Prening said his blond-haired, blue-eyed son – who stood 6 feet, 3 inches – joined the Marines because “he wanted to challenge himself.”

“He was real proud after he finished boot camp,” Bill Prening said. “It was a major accomplishment in his life.”

After boot camp, Brian Prening went into the reserves, his father said, and had completed his service.

“He was done,” Bill Prening said. “Then he got called back up.”

His mother, Deborah Prening, said while she was fearful for her son’s life, her son knew he had to go and had readied himself for battle.

“He was that kind of guy . . . ‘Let’s get it on,’ you know?” Deborah Prening said. ” ‘Do what you gotta do’ and have a real good outlook on life.”

To date, 27 soldiers from Wisconsin have been killed in the fighting in Iraq, including four in the past week.

Brian Prening ran track, played football and wrestled at Plymouth High School. He later went to Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., where he got a degree after he completed the school’s tool-and-die program.

He then got a job working as a machine set-up man at the Kohler Co. with his father.

Bill Prening said some of his fondest memories of his son are of the times the two went hunting for turkeys in the Kettle Moraine forest or for bears and deer in Eagle River.

When Brian Prening found out he was being sent to Iraq, his father said, he chose to go with his company, even though he didn’t have to, because he had developed an affinity for his comrades after they trained in Poland.

Brian Prening was in charge of a three-man “fire team” and, as such, would take the younger soldiers who had just entered the Marines under his wing, his father said.

Bill Prening said his son went to Iraq out of a sense of duty but had doubts about the government’s stated reasons for being there.

“One of the letters he wrote is that the only reason he thought he was there was for oil,” Bill Prening said. “That’s the only thing we got out of him from his letters,” he said, adding that the only other thing his son wrote about was being sick of the Marines’ Meals Ready to Eat.

Bill Prening said he supports the troops, not the war.

“I know they have to be there because they have to,” Bill Prening said. “I don’t believe we should be there.”

Bill Prening said his son is survived by a twin brother, Bill, and a younger sister, Ann, 21.

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Age: 24
Incident Location: Babil province, Iraq
Branch: Marines
Rank: Cpl.
Unit: 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division
Units Base: Chicago, Illinois