Army Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Altmann’s plans and dreams were coming together: He married in February, re-enlisted in October for another four years of service and expected to return by this March from a deployment in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, his father, John, said.
His wife, Nikki, planned to quit her Texas-based job with a charter air transport company serving armed forces personnel when Altmann ended this deployment, his father said Tuesday. Then the young couple could live together and start a family.
But the couple’s plans abruptly ended on Christmas Day.
Altmann, 27, died Sunday of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit in Kunar province, a mountainous region in northeastern Afghanistan. His parents were notified around 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
“Christmas will never be the same in the Altmann home,” his father said. “He will be sadly missed.”
The family is “devastated,” even though they knew the risks Altmann faced by re-enlisting, his mother, Janice, said.
“As a mother, you worry about your child no matter what they do,” she said, “but we talked about it, and we supported his decision 110%.”
Late Tuesday, Nikki Altmann was to accompany her husband’s parents on a flight from Minneapolis to Dover, Del. Joseph Altmann’s body was scheduled to arrive there Wednesday from Afghanistan and will be flown to Wisconsin later in the week.
Altmann, a combat medic and Marshfield native, previously served two tours of duty in Iraq.
He is the 29th Wisconsin resident to die while serving in Afghanistan and the 10th this year.
He was a 2003 graduate of Columbus Catholic High School in Marshfield, where he played multiple sports.
“He was not a superstar,” his father said. “He just played his heart out.” That was his son’s approach to life, he said.
Altmann was a popular student who enjoyed getting together with friends, his mother said.
“He just lit up a room,” she said. “He was always bright and bubbly, always in a good mood.”
After trying college for a year, Joseph Altmann decided to enlist in the Army.
“He wanted to be a medic,” his father said. “He loved to do it.”
The family was not surprised he became a medic. Altmann’s grandfather, Jim, had nicknamed him “the surgeon” because he was always the first one in their hunting group to offer to dress a deer, and his work showed “surgical” skills, his father said.
“Joe really, really loved the job he was doing,” his mother said. “He was so proud to stand next to the men he served with.”
Altmann was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Services are pending at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Marshfield. Visitation likely will be held at Columbus Catholic High School, John Altmann said.
Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Altmann, 27, of Marshfield, Wis., died Dec. 25, in Kunar province Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He was initially assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, Giessen Germany and served 1st tour of duty in Iraq from January 2006 to March of 2007. He returned to the states in June 2007 to begin assignment at Walter Reed Army Hospital until June 2008 when he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division station at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He served a 2nd tour in Iraq in 2009 before returning to HI. He began his 3rd tour of duty in Kunar Province Afghanistan in April 2011. He was due to complete his tour in February or March of 2012. He married Nikki Lee Nichols on February 15, 2011 in a private ceremony on the beach in Honolulu, HI. Joe was an avid outdoorsman and lived his life to the fullest. He is remembered most for his quiet demeanor and unwavering friendship. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, 3, Army Achievement Medal, 3, Army Good Conduct Medal, 2, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, 2, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, 4, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Expert Field Medical Badge Combat and Special Skill Badge Basic Marksmanship Qual Badge. He also received NATO Medal, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously.
He is lovingly survived by his wife, Nikki, his parents, John and Jan Altmann of Marshfield, a sister, Kristen (fiancé –Pat Niehaus) Altmann, and brothers, Robert and Michael Altmann, all of Marshfield. He is also survived by his maternal grandmother, Caroline Neuman of Marshfield, and his paternal grandparents, James and Geraldine Altmann of Marshfield. He is further survived by mother and father-in-law, Kelly and Nick Nichols, brothers-in-law, Seth and Scott Nichols, of Smithville, Texas and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He was predeceased by his maternal grandfather, James Spencer, and paternal step grandfather, Norbert Neuman.