Mickey Zaun to be remembered on Memorial Day
Cheryl Zaun holds a photo of her son, Mickey. She points out the patch that indicates Mickey was a master parachutist, “the top of the heap,” she said.
Cheryl Zaun of Eden Prairie is thankful that 10 years after her son Mickey’s death in Iraq, he is still being remembered and honored.
On Tuesday, she received a rebuilt car from Farmers Insurance and LaMettry’s Collision as part of an ongoing program to honor veterans through the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program.
“Sgt. First Class Mickey E. Zaun died Jan. 28, 2005, from injuries sustained during an armored vehicle collision near Mosul, Iraq,” according to a news release.
“Prior to his death, Cheryl had been in a bike accident, and then a car accident, resulting in severe injuries. As a result, she is unable to work and lives on disability,” the release said.
On Tuesday she received a 2009 Nissan Altima, and she plans to affix a Gold Star Mothers decal to it.
“I’ve been saving it,” she said.
In the 10 years that have passed, 20 years since he enlisted, Mickey has been remembered in large and small ways, Cheryl said, with sites named in his honor, events held in his name and stories shared with his mother.
He is one of three veterans, along with Vietnam veterans Richard Lorix and Woody Franklin, who will be honored during the Eden Prairie Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Memorial on May 25.
“That’s important to me,” Cheryl said. “He will be recognized for generations to come and will not be forgotten.”
Sgt. First Class Mickey Edward Zaun, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne) is the full title printed on a card Cheryl proudly displays.
Mickey was born on July 7, 1977, 7/7/77, Cheryl said.
“He was always a good luck charm, now he’s an angel on my shoulder,” she said.
She said he knew he wanted to be in the military from the time he was 12 years old. He joined the Army on Aug. 10, 1995, just after graduating from high school and rose quickly through the ranks.
His awards and decorations, included two Bronze Star Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, which was presented posthumously, according to a previous story.
Zaun was a chemical operations specialist with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He died in 2005, from injuries sustained during the collision between two armored vehicles in Mosul, Iraq.
“Mickey was the driver for one team, and his defensive action that day saved the lives of his comrades in both vehicles,” Cheryl wrote. “Because of his skills and attitude, Mickey was the type of guy everybody wanted on their team.”
“Mickey was always concerned and taking care of everybody else,” she said. She recalls him helping his sister Sharee learn to ride a bike and shoot a pellet gun.
When Cheryl’s father, a D-Day survivor, passed away Mickey sat between his mother and grandmother and comforted them.
When she heard of Mickey’s death, Cheryl said, it brought her to her knees.
She said one of his fellow soldiers didn’t find out about his death until a few years later, “and he just cried like a baby.”
“Mickey’s friends all told me, they knew he’d go far, because that’s just the way he wanted to learn and keep improving himself,” she said.
Lt. Col. Mark W. Erwin wrote to her, “Absolute bravery was not even a thought for him, it just came natural.”
Cheryl said that she will speak on Memorial Day, and include information other people have shared with her, “about my boy.”
“Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. Mickey is one of those ripples of hope,” wrote J.M. Baker in a copy of his book “Looking Out from Under the Hat,” which he signed for Cheryl.
“Nobody knows Mickey like me,” Cheryl said. “I have to do it because that’s my boy.”
She said she loves the Eden Prairie Veterans Memorial. She lived in Eden Prairie when Mickey was born.
She said she walks by the memorial with her dog and leaves him a kiss.
“I just love it that it will be there forever,” Cheryl said. “It brings so much value to me personally as his mother to know that he’ll always be there and that Eden Prairie is grateful.”
When he was put to rest at Fort Snelling, after the 21-gun salute for Mickey, she said, “a lone eagle flew above us.
“That’s my Mickey.”