(WHAS11) -- A University of Louisville graduate and two other U.S. soldiers were killed overseas on Friday while on a training mission to combat Al Qaeda terrorism in the North African country of Mali. Captain Daniel Utley served nine years in the Army. His mission was to help others.
“Not to necessarily fight and blow things up, but to help villagers. It was really quite extraordinary," Gary Gregg, Director of the McConnell Center at UofL, said.
Utley, a McConnell Scholar, graduated in 2001, but always kept in contact with Gregg. He sent home a flag that was flown on a mission in Afghanistan in 2009 which is now kept in an office at the center.
Gregg learned of Utley’s death while at the Cardinal Hall of Fame Café after he received an email from Utley’s father.
“I was stunned. I just couldn't believe it. It was hard for me to catch my breath, and then I realized I was sitting only feet away from the last time I saw Dan,” Gregg said.
He died just one week after his 33rd birthday. Utley was a decorated soldier and husband. After one of his deployments, he gave Gregg a U.S. flag patch that was from his uniform.
“That was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever had in my life. This soldier thought enough of me to send me his patch, and he wrote this note, ‘This isn't very much, but it's all I have to give you.’ That was what Dan was," Gregg said.
He carries the patch around with him in his pocket every day. Gregg said they plan to hold a memorial service for Utley on campus in the near future.