Iraq War veteran dies after falling on ice

By Denise Jackson

December 27, 2012 Updated Dec 28, 2012 at 12:01 AM CDT

METAMORA, Ill. -- A Metamora Iraq War veteran, who became a symbol of survival after a car bomb explosion, has died.

Family members say 30-year-old Ty Ziegel died early Wednesday morning after falling on ice.

Angela Cochran, Ziegel's girlfriend, said he has been an inspiration in the three months since they began dating.

"You can ask him anything about his scars, his time in Iraq, how everything happened; he's like an open book," said Cochran. "He was willing to share stories. That's what makes him so inspiring. He's not trying to hide."

In December of 2004, Ziegel and another local marine suffered severe burns when a car bomb exploded while they both were serving in Iraq. Ziegel spent several months in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. His mother, Becky Ziegel, says he learned to deal with the disability.

"His doctors asked him several times to visit other injured military people, just to be a little bit of inspiration, maybe go in there and say 'hey you know time to buck up," Ziegel said.

Becky Ziegel says her family has received a tremendous amount of support in recent years. She says her other son, Zachary, who is also a marine, reminded her how Ty would want them to be after he's gone.

"He would want us to appreciate the eight years we really didn't expect to have, that we need to appreciate the gift that we did get from him," she added.

Ty Ziegel retired from the marines in 2007 for medical reasons. His family says he lived life to the fullest and despite his disability and often tried to encourage others.

Autopsy results are pending.

A visitation will be held Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Mason Funeral Home in Metamora. Funeral services are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Monday.

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