LITTLETON -- Sgt. David "DJ" Stelmat, 27, died March 22, 2008, in Iraq as a result of a roadside bomb while serving as a medic in the 237 Military Police Company.
Stelmat was a former U.S. Army infantryman who fought on the front lines in Afghanistan. He later traded his weapon for a first-aid kit as a medic with the New Hampshire Army National Guard in Iraq.
"All he wanted to do was help people," said his father, David Stelmat, of Centerville, Ohio. "That was his whole purpose in life."
A 1998 graduate of Profile School in Bethlehem, Stelmat was a life-long outdoorsman who, as an adult, gave up the comforts of a family home so he could live in a tiny shack in the remote woods of Franconia. He spent three years in the shack, denying himself the convenience of electricity and running water, his mother said.
"I swear, he was born in the wrong century," said his mother, Maryanne Rennell, of Littleton.
He was born in Hartford, Conn., the youngest of three children. Stelmat's father was a Marine during the conflict in Vietnam. An older sister, Carisa, served in the Air Force.
Over the years, "DJ" Stelmat held several jobs at the Cannon Mountain ski resort, his mother said. For a time, she said, he made his home in a 10-foot by 10-foot cabin about a mile into the woods in Franconia, earning his keep by chopping wood and doing other chores for the landowner.
He liked to ski and hike. He and his friends were sometimes known to hold "jam sessions" at the top of Artists Bluff, banging on their bongos and "howling at the moon," Rennell said.
Stelmat spent many summers with his father and two half-siblings, either in Illinois, North Carolina or Ohio. The elder Stelmat said his son "was very brave, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice."
SERVICES: A gathering will be held on Monday from 10 a.m. to noon at New Life Assembly of God Church, Whitefield Road, Littleton. A Celebration of Life will be held at noon at the church.
Arrangements and care have been entrusted to the Pillsbury Funeral Homes and Cremation Service, Inc (www.pillsburyfh.com).