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July 25, 2005
Moorhead, Minn. — Opskar was born in Princeton, Minnesota where he graduated from high school in 1991. After taking time off from school to play U.S. Junior League hockey, he attended Concordia College and played on the Cobber hockey team in 1993 and 1994.
Steve Baumgartner, head coach of the Concordia hockey team, learned about Opskar's death Monday morning.
"The shock is there when you read it in the paper right away, and you understand he was in the Marines doing what he wanted to do," says Baumgartner. "He died serving his country, and you've got to be proud of that."
Baumgartner remembers Opskar as a hard nosed, disciplined player. It's a memory shared by others, including assistant coach Mark Rice.
Rice says Opskar wasn't the most talented or flashiest player, but he practiced the hardest and led by example.
"He was an excellent team guy. He was a guy that everyone circled around in the locker room," Rice recalls. "He was a guy that everyone liked, just because of his outgoing personality and just by the way he worked. He was a guy that people definitely looked up to, and we as coaches looked up to, just because he did work so hard."
Rice says Opskar was a leader and team player off the ice as well. He described him as a blue collar, lunchpail kind of guy.
Opskar enlisted in the Marines in 1998, and signed up for another four-year stint a few years ago. Teammate Dave Kimmel remembers Opskar as a courageous person on and off the ice -- someone who was mature for his age. Kimmel says Opskar fit in well with the team.
Kimmel says Opskar is not the first friend he's lost in the war, but the news never gets any easier.
"I've had a lot of friends that have served for this country, and unfortunately their lives have been taken," says Kimmel. "You feel proud of the individual for giving the ultimate sacrifice, but you feel disappointment for the individual and the family as well, and you feel like you've lost someone close to you."
Opskar's relatives say they're not ready to talk to the media. Funderal services for Marine Sgt. Bryan James Opskar are pending. He is the 24th Minnesotan to die in the Mideast during the Iraq war.