University of Louisville graduate Captain Daniel H. Utley died in service to his country on Friday, April 20th, near Bamako, in the African country of Mali. The 33-year-old Civil Affairs Officer, a native of Glasgow, Kentucky, was killed in a vehicle accident. The United States Army has made no official statement or release about the incident, but the WCLU-FM  is reporting a U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity as saying Utley was one of the three Americans who died while in Mali as part of a U.S. special operations training mission that was suspended after last month's coup overthrew the country's democratically elected president.
Captain Utley was part of an effort by the U.S. military to train Malian troops in counterterrorism tactics to fight al-Qaida-linked militants who have established bases in Mali's northern desert. Utley died just one week after his 33rd birthday.
He joined the Army is 2003 and served in tours of duty in Afghanistan, South Korea, Kuwait, and Mali. A member of the class of 1997 at Glasgow High School, he is survived by his parents, Charles and Linda Utley, and by his wife Katie, and two brothers, Chuck Utley and Matt Utley. Captain Utley was awarded several medals, including the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation, and two Global War on Terrorism Medals during his career.
Utley was a McConnell Scholar at the University of Louisville. Todd Leskanic, reporting in the Fayetteville Observer , quoted McConnell Center Director Gary Gregg as remembering Utley as an avid volunteer who was always looking for ways to serve others. "Really, the thing about Dan that made him so special is that he was just such a gentle, kind and considerate person," Gregg said. "When he was an undergraduate, he would volunteer for any cause that came along. He was always trying to help out the underdog."
Captain Utley, originally from Bowling Green, Ky., graduated from the University of Louisville in 2001 and enrolled the following fall in the university's law school. Gregg and Connie Wilkinson-Tobbe, a college friend of Utley's, told Leskanic they were surprised when he decided to quit law school after his first year to enter the Army. "Dan was ready to live life, and he was probably smarter than everybody sitting in (law school)," said Wilkinson-Tobbe, who stayed and finished her law degree at Louisville. "That was not stimulating enough for him, and he was ready to do great things. I think another day in that classroom would have been more than he could bear."
A tribute to Dan Utley from a High School Friend
The following is a special guest blog from Angelia Pickett Chirichigno, a high school friend of Dan Utley. We are pleased to add this elegant tribute to the McConnell Center's memory of our dear friend.
Several days ago I got the tragic news that an old friend and dear classmate had passed away while serving his country in Africa. The news has left me with a profound sadness. In recent years, most knew my friend as Captain Daniel Utley, a soldier serving in the US Army. For me, Dan is the smart, funny, and sensitive boy that I grew up with in Glasgow, Kentucky. He’s the one I went to when I forgot to do my homework and needed to copy an answer, the one I went to when I needed to laugh. He was the boy who was always silly, yet more mature than anyone else I knew. He was the sweet, compassionate and understanding guy who accompanied a bunch of his girlfriends to the Senior Prom because they were too cool to find traditional dates.
Dan and I went to the same elementary school and I can’t even recall when we met. He’s simply a permanent fixture in a multitude of charming childhood memories. While we were good friends in our younger years, we struck a particular chord with each other in high school when our political interests crossed paths. Dan had taken the lead as the prominent young Democrat in our community, while I was attending Lincoln Day Dinners and campaigning for Bob Dole. Our points of view were different, but we shared a passion and respect for one another that only we could understand. Dan and I never dated, but we had a standing agreement. When we grew up, we would get married and have two children. They would be a boy and a girl and we would appropriately name them Reagan and Carter. We wanted to be our generation’s James Carville and Mary Matalin.
From a young age I knew I wanted to be an Air Force officer. When I left high school and set off for college, our friends expected this was the path I would chose. Conversely, we were certain Dan would become a top notch lawyer, a politician, and certainly our future President. No one anticipated that our friend who often entertained us with amusing dance moves and quirky music would find his calling in the Army. With college complete, I followed my predicted path, and while I’m proud of my service, I can’t hold a candle to the bravery, dedication, and heroics shown by Captain Utley.
We may not have expected Dan to join the Army, but we did expect him to continue his lifelong dedication to helping people. And that’s exactly what he did. Due to the nature of his work, we may never know the details surrounding Capt Dan Utley’s death, but I’m certain we are safer today because of it. Dan, your time with us was too short, but we will do our best to honor your memory. God speed dear friend. You were loved and admired by many and will be missed by all. I am proud and humbled to have known you.
Note: As a token of honor and respect, several members of the Glasgow High School, Class of 1997, have set up a memorial scholarship fund in honor of Dan. For those interested in making a contribution, please send your donations to:
Glasgow Independent School Education Foundation Glasgow Board of Education 1108 Cleveland Avenue Glasgow, KY 42141
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions). The Arena is read by more people in Louisville than in any other city in America.