HARROD — The photographs of Nathan B. Carse tell his story, but not the whole story.They show him with arms draped around high school teammates, posing proudly at his college graduation, flashing a smile while standing on a beach, dancing with family.But the whole story is that of a man who found his purpose, who had the guts to listen to his calling. In 2 Corinthians, Pastor Jonathon Hanover said, Paul tells us we write letters with the lives we live.“Nathan's life may have been cut short,” Hanover said. “But his letter was a great one. Nathan lived a life to be proud of.”After earning a master's degree in environmental engineering at Louisiana State University, Carse stayed in Louisiana taking a job with a company that was reconstructing sewer systems and levees in the Gulf Coast state. It was a good, well-paying, safe job. But Carse wasn't happy. Soon, he told his family he was about to make a drastic change, trading his uniform of Mustang blue for one of Army green and his college diplomas for boots and a rifle.On Feb. 8, Spc. Carse, a combat engineer, was killed in action in southern Afghanistan. Friday, hundreds of family members and friends gathered inside Crossroads Church of God to pay him their final respects.“He died a hero. A true hero,” sister Kristin Purdy said. “I may not approve of this thing we call war, but I stand behind our men and women, our troops, with every ounce of my heart. They make sacrifices, which some people don't think of, and that's why I'm proud to be a hero's baby sister.”Carse, 32, had been in Afghanistan for about four months and had two months to go before his unit was to return home. The military said he died of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.Friday, his family celebrated his life and shared their grief. They told of a man who loved his nephews, enjoyed the outdoors, commanded respect as well as he gave it, and was a skilled builder.“He could fix anything,” Purdy said. “Last year he built a beautiful deck outside of the back of my mom's house. He was always the handyman. He was the first person who taught me how to shoot a gun and the first person to teach me to throw a football.”After an hour long service, Carse's flag-draped wooden coffin was loaded into the gray hearse that led a long line of cars from the church to Woodlawn Cemetery in Ada. Roadside tributes lined the drive. A woman stood at the end of her driveway, flanked by fluttering American flags, her right hand covering hear heart. A silver-haired man wearing a veteran's ballcap stood beside his parked sedan, holding still in a solitary salute in perfect attention. Many flags were flown at half-staff.In the cemetery's southeast corner, Carse was laid to rest not far from a 72-year-old memorial honoring the area's men and women who served in times of war. It was fitting for Carse, the son of a Green Beret who wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfathers to serve in the military, to be among his brothers-in-arms. “He knew the risk, but he loved his country and chose to serve it in times of war,” Brig. Gen. John S. Regan said.Carse's intelligence and training could have marked him for officer candidate school. He declined, said Regan, the commanding officer at Carse's stateside base in New Mexico.“An officer of the highest caliber, he had that potential,” Regan said. “But he chose to do it his way. He wanted to first see what a solider's life was like.”The service had the traditional rites of taps and a sharp 21-gun salute. A bagpipist played “Amazing Grace.”Throughout the service, many remarked on what Nathan was: a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a grandson, a teacher, a friend.“Nathan was all that and he was much more,” Regan said. “In the bottom of his soul, he was a patriot who loved his country.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.
HARROD — Hundreds of small, hand-held American flags waved in silent tribute Wednesday morning. The dozens of people lining Harding Highway were joined by pupils and staff at Allen East School for the brief, emotional homecoming of a fallen hero.The flag-draped casket carrying the body of Army Spc. Nathan B. Carse, 32, made the somber journey through Mustang country on its way to Hanson-Neely Funeral Home in Ada. Escorted by more than 25 vehicles, including fire apparatus and Sheriff's Office cruisers, the procession slowed as it passed the school on its way from the Allen County Airport to Ada.“We're just a small community so when stuff like this happens it affects all of us. His youngest sister and my sister were very good friends in school,” Katie Moots said. “We would all run into each other every now and then. With it being Allen East, a small community, everyone knows everyone. He was older than me but we definitely knew him. He was the sweetest kid alive. He's going to be missed.”There were tears and sobs as the procession approached and the hearse passed. Young and old alike turned out in the tight-knit community.“I thought I ought to come out, pass out flags,” said Sam McClure, a Jackson Township trustee. “I think it shows a lot of respect and shows a lot of him to have so many come out.”Carse died Feb. 8 after insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, the military said. Carse graduated from Allen East in 1997.A large American flag hung over the scene, hoisted on ladder trucks from the Bluffton and Perry Township fire departments. Harding Highway was closed just west of Phillips Road to make room for the procession.Standing along the road watching the procession, flag in hand, was Tim Hobensack, an Army veteran. The scene hit a little closer to home, Hobensack said, because of his family's history with the Army.“I was in the service, my daughter was in Afghanistan,” he said. “It means a lot.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.
HARROD — Funeral arrangements for Nathan Carse are on hold today as his family awaits the return of the Harrod soldier's body from Afghanistan.Army Spc. Nathan B. Carse, 32, the son of an Army Green Beret veteran, died Tuesday in Kandahar province. His remains arrived Wednesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, a spokeswoman for his unit confirmed.Carse, a 1997 graduate of Allen East High School, was an engineer assigned to the Army's 2nd Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, based at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. White Sands Chief of Public Affairs Monte Marlin said Carse died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.Carse's mother, Janis Hays Carse, met the military flight carrying her son when it landed at Dover. His sister, Kristin Purdy, said her mother's brother and a cousin, Brad Hays and Jackie Sperling, both of Ada, accompanied her mother. They returned Thursday. An officer with the military's Casualty Assistance Office drove them to and from the airport in Columbus, Purdy said. Purdy said it could be five days or longer before her brother's body returns to Harrod. His remains will be flown to Columbus or Dayton, she said. Funeral arrangements by Hanson-Neely Funeral Home in Ada have not been finalized.A memorial service also will take place at the White Sands military base, Marlin said. Carse gave up a civilian engineering career to join the Army a year ago at age 31. He held a bachelor's degree in biology from Capital University in Columbus and a master's in engineering from Lousiana State University. He was unmarried and had no children but he doted on his four nephews, said Brown and Kristin Purdy, a sister of Carse.He followed in the tradition of his father, the late Charles Carse, who served the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam and the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., during the Vietnam War.Another Allen East graduate, Pfc. Curtis Yetman, 21, is recovering from combat injuries he suffered Jan. 7 in Afghanistan. By coincidence, both Yetman and Carse were catchers for the Allen East Mustangs baseball team.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.
HARROD — A 1997 graduate of Allen East High School has died in combat in Afghanistan, his family confirmed Wednesday.Army Spc. Nathan Carse, 32, died recently in Afghanistan. Details about his death had not been released by the Department of Defense as of late Wednesday, however the family said they were told he had stepped on a bomb.Carse's sister, Kristin Purdy, who is staying with her mother in Harrod while her husband is in the military in Iraq, said her brother left a successful career as an engineer last year to join the Army to fight for his country. “My brother just wanted to fight for our freedom,” she said. He was an engineer in Louisiana working for the government a year ago when he decided to join the Army.“He came home and said, ‘I think I want to take a different route and I'm going to join the military,'” she said.Carse left for basic training and then deployed to Afghanistan four months ago to join a unit already over there. “His deployment would have only been eight months,” she said.Purdy and her family have not been told a lot about Carse's death. An Army chaplain and another member of the Army showed up at her mother's door Tuesday afternoon to deliver the news. The men said her brother died in Afghanistan in the last few days after stepping on an improvised explosive device, also known as a roadside bomb.Purdy said her brother joined the Army at 31 after earning a bachelor's degree in environmental science and later a master's degree in engineering. He had thought about joining for a long time and finally made the decision to enlist, she said. Carse's decision followed in the footsteps of his father, Charles Carse, who was a Green Beret in the U.S. Army, serving in the Special Forces during the Vietnam War.“We come from a long line of military members. My brother wanted to continue in the family tradition,” she said. Carse has two younger sisters and is the son of the late Charles Carse and Janis Carse. He was not married and did not have children, his sister said. Purdy last spoke to her brother a week ago. He called and was interested in how his nephews were doing, she said.“He always asked about his nephews, and he loved them. He has four of them,” she said.They also talked a little about his work but he wasn't allowed to say much.“He did say he had only four missions left and he would be packing up and getting ready to get out of there,” she said. Carse was a starting linebacker for the Allen East football team and once returned a fumble for an 81-yard touchdown that helped his team beat Delphos Jefferson in 1996. He also played catcher on the baseball team. As a child he was active in 4-H and loved to hunt, his sister said.Besides excelling at sports, Carse had a gift to sing and was in show choir, she said.“He was a great dancer and great singer,” she said.After high school, Carse enjoyed karaoke, she said.“‘Friends In Low Places,' that is one song I remember him singing. I think it was at Capital (University), Nathan and one of his friends. His friend grabbed the guitar and they sang ‘Friends In Low Places,'” she said.Purdy also remembered her brother as a man who would help anyone, who would drop whatever he was doing to help a family member or friend.“He was the most amazing man,” she said.
LAKEVIEW — A Lakeview man died earlier this month from wounds suffered in Afghanistan.
ZANESFIELD — A Marine from Zanesfield was killed Monday in Afghanistan.
SUSSEX, Wis. (AP) - A Racine soldier on active duty in Iraq has died from injuries he received in a noncombat-related incident, the Department of Defense announced Sunday.
ELIDA - The message on a local soldier's Facebook message board was simple - "Freaking out." It was the first response of a newlywed wife who just learned her husband was never coming home.
ILLINOIS ARMY GUARD SOLDIERS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN
• Army Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Hansen, 31, originally from Lakeview, died Dec. 5, 2009, from injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit Dec. 3 with an improvised explosive device in Logar province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
WAPAKONETA — Army Sgt. Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III loved to make people laugh. And he was certainly good at it.He was the guy you wanted to be friends with; the guy you wanted in your unit when fighting a dangerous war in Iraq.“Sgt. Mike Schoolcraft was the kind of soldier every commander wants on his team,” Brig. Gen. Keith Macnamara said Saturday during services for the slain soldier. “He was experienced. He was fearlessly dedicated. He was motivated and he had a deep-seated character.”Hundreds came to Wapakoneta High School Saturday to honor and say goodbye to the 2001 Wapakoneta and Apollo Career Center graduate. Many arrived early holding American flags and lining the road as Schoolcraft returned to his school one last time.Many used the word “patriot” when speaking of Schoolcraft, killed Jan 18 from wounds he suffered when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Taji, Iraq.Among the mourners were veterans, active military personnel, and several family and friends wearing T-shirts donning Schoolcraft’s picture and the words “Our Fallen Hero.”Both military and sacred elements were scattered throughout the service, a request from the soldier who knew he would be in harm’s way when leaving for Iraq. He was on his second tour of duty there, leaving for that tour soon after marrying Amber Van Weort in November.“Mike willingly put on the uniform and took his place in a long succession of patriots who have put their country and their family ahead of their personal safety,” the Rev. Greg Roberts said.Schoolcraft, 26, was remembered for his sense of humor, outgoing personality and “killer smile.” Roberts said his smile endeared him to all he met, including those who served with him. Services held in Iraq and at his base in Hawaii showed it, he said.Macnamara shared comments from some of those soldiers; comments highlighting both Schoolcraft’s funny side and his commitment to serving his country.“Mike Schoolcraft was a great guy. He could find a way to make any situation comical with his crazy antics no matter how bad it was,” he read.Another joked that he was “by far the most talkative” of the unit, adding that he talked so much because he cared so much for others.“A gentle work hound” one person wrote. “Because he always had a smile and accomplished his missions with immense energy and pride.”Macnamara presented Schoolcraft’s wife and parents with the Bronze Medal, Purple Heart and Iraq Campaign Medal. He was promoted to sergeant after his death.“It was clear that he was a hero to his superiors and fellow soldiers,” Macnamara said. “Back here he is also a hero.”As important as the medals are, Roberts said Schoolcraft’s real legacy was his love for his family and friends.“The love he had for each of you is deeply imbedded and will never go away,” he said. “The memories of time spent together, some preserved in photographs and others etched in your minds, are forever yours.”Even before the service began, mourners saw glimpses of Schoolcraft’s life. A slide show played outside the gymnasium. Photographs and Schoolcraft’s military honors were also on display.The smile so often talked about was clearly seen in childhood photos, as well as a photo of Schoolcraft in uniform posing with what appeared to be Iraqi children. Other photos showed him with his family. One showed him fishing, while many proved that he indeed loved his tattoos.As bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and mourners stood with their hands over their hearts, Schoolcraft’s American flag-draped coffin was taken from the gymnasium.Outside, onlookers stood along the road, some in small groups and others alone, all holding flags as the procession passed taking Schoolcraft to Buckland Cemetery.
WAPAKONETA — Army Sgt. Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III spent much of his teen years excelling in athletics and participating in activities at Wapakoneta High School. It is only fitting that the slain soldier will be eulogized and remembered at that very place.Funeral services for Schoolcraft will begin at 1 p.m. Feb. 2 at the high school. Friends may call from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Feb. 1 at Bayliff & Son Funeral Home, Cridersville.Schoolcraft, 26, died last Saturday supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, near Taji, Iraq, from wounds he suffered when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Taji is about 20 miles north of Baghdad.Schoolcraft, who also studied auto body repair at Apollo Career Center, joined the Army shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his mother, Cynthia Schoolcraft said. He was on his second tour in Iraq.A special military service was held Tuesday in Iraq and another service today in Hawaii.
MILILANI, Hawaii — Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III loved tattoos, his widow said Tuesday.In fact, he loved them so much, she said, he’s probably up in heaven right now getting “ink done.”“When I go to heaven, I am sure he’ll be fully tattooed,” Amber Van Weort Schoolcraft said of her late husband. “He also loved spearfishing and going to the beach. … He loved his family.”As Schoolcraft makes painful preparations to travel to Ohio in the next few days to bury her husband, she reflected Tuesday afternoon on his life and their marriage and courtship, which started near their Hawaii home in October 2005.Schoolcraft, 21, lost her 26-year-old husband this past weekend after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb, causing it to explode, near Taji, Iraq.She said her husband’s colleagues and fellow soldiers observed his death Tuesday with a special military service in Iraq, and at 1 p.m. today, there will be a military service in Hawaii, which she plans to attend.After that, she said, her husband’s body will return to Ohio for a service with his family. She will travel to Ohio around the same time.Funeral arrangements for those services are pending through Bayliff & Son Funeral Home in Cridersville.“I hadn’t realized how many lives he touched until all those soldiers he worked with over there wrote me,” she said. “I am really proud of him. He’s a hero. He saved the rest of the guys with him. … But it still hurts and I wish it wasn’t us. I wish he was home with me.”Schoolcraft said her husband, a 2001 graduate of Wapakoneta High School, was promoted to sergeant after his death.Because she and her husband made so many plans before his death, she said she isn’t exactly sure what she will do now. She will, however, move back to upstate New York, to Plattsburgh.“We were going to move to the mainland and have our lives together, without the military keeping us apart all the time,” Schoolcraft said, explaining that her husband wanted to be a state trooper or U.S. deputy marshal. “Half of our relationship was spent on the phone.”Although they began dating in November 2005, Schoolcraft said they were engaged by December of that year.They married Nov. 17.What makes it most painful for the widow is that her husband wanted out of the military, so he could start a family.“He was ready to get out,” she said. “He’d been there [to Iraq] once before. He didn’t want to go again.”However, she said, he would never skip out on his duty to his country.“I wish I wouldn’t have let him go,” Amber Schoolcraft said. “I was happy with him. I don’t think I could’ve stopped him. He wanted to do his job.”
MILILANI, Hawaii — As Amber Van Weort Schoolcraft makes painful preparations to travel to Ohio in the next few days to bury her husband, she reflected Tuesday afternoon on his life and their marriage and courtship, which started near their Hawaii home in October 2005.Schoolcraft, 21, is the widow of Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III, 26, who died this past weekend after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb, causing it to explode, near Taji, Iraq.She said her husband’s colleagues and fellow soldiers observed his death today with a special military service in Iraq.At 1 p.m. Wednesday, she said, there will be a military service in Hawaii, which she plans to attend.After that, she said, her husband’s body will return to Ohio for a service with his family. She will travel to Ohio around the same time.Funeral arrangements for those services are pending through Bayliff & Son Funeral Home. Schoolcraft said her late husband will be buried at Buckland Cemetery.“I hadn’t realized how many lives he touched until all those soldiers he worked over there with wrote me,” she said. “I am really proud of him. He’s a hero. He saved the rest of the guys over there. … But it still hurts and I wish it wasn’t me. I wish he was home with me.”Schoolcraft said her husband was promoted to sergeant after his death.Because she and her husband made so many plans before his death, she said she isn’t exactly sure what she will do now that he is dead. She will, however, move to her home in upstate New York, in Plattsburgh.
LIMA — Army Spc. Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III had a smile that stood out as one of a kind, like his trademark.Friends, family and people close to the 26-year-old graduate of Wapakoneta High School and Apollo Career Center, also described him as a good man, a stand-out student with a lot of talent, and a person who was dedicated to what he did.His mother, Cynthia Schoolcraft Hooker, of Lima, said he had a bright life ahead of him, full of promise.He loved children, she said, and he wanted to start a family when he returned from service in the U.S. Army.Unfortunately, Schoolcraft will not have a chance to start a family, nor fulfill all of the promise he possessed.On Monday, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed Schoolcraft died Saturday supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, near Taji, Iraq, from wounds he suffered when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Taji is about 20 miles north of Baghdad.Schoolcraft’s mother broke into tears as she spoke of her son Monday afternoon. Although she suffers from multiple sclerosis, she maintained composure, she said, as best as she could and laughed at the good memories she has of her son.The yellow ribbon wrapped around a tree in her front yard in Lima indicates she was waiting for him to return home from the war.“I told him he was too beautiful to go into the Army,” she said, smiling. “It’s a tragedy. … He’d planned to come home, which he promised to do since he enlisted.”Schoolcraft’s only sibling, his sister, Megan, 24, sat beside their mother, holding her 11-month-old daughter, Kaylen, and said the three of them were always very close.“He was always the man,” she said. “He never had an enemy. He got along with everybody.”The family said Schoolcraft excelled in every extracurricular activity he could possibly participate in, including wrestling, football, track and baseball.His coaches and teachers agreed.Darrell Jones was Schoolcraft’s assistant football coach in high school. He said they lost touch after he enlisted.“He was a solid person,” said Jones, now an assistant coach at Perry High School. “He was a very reliable, dependable, hard worker — the kind of kid that gave it 100 percent. ‘Enthusiasm’ is the first word that comes to mind. He approached things with a lot of enthusiasm.”Hooker said she her son was on a dangerous daytime mission when he died.“I’d been trying to talk him out of it for years, as moms do. … I actually went through some of his pictures the other day. There are all kinds of pictures of him with kids.”Cynthia Schoolcraft said her son was recently married and he’d planned a long life with his wife, Amber Van Weort Schoolcraft, who he married in November in Wapakoneta.“He loved his family very much,” Hooker said, sitting next to her husband, Randy Hooker, and his parents, Dan and Sue Hooker, of Lima. “He liked to kid around, and he was a good person and a good soldier. … From what I understand, his actions allowed others to survive and return home to their families. They told me he will receive the Purple Heart.”Schoolcraft’s family said he spent his junior and senior years studying auto body repair at the Apollo Career Center.“He had a smile that was very noticeable,” said Nick Earl, dean of students. “He stood out as a good student.”As news of Schoolcraft’s death spread through the community, officials at Wapakoneta City Council mentioned his death during its regular session Monday night.Daniel Graf, 4th Ward councilman, asked that the city contact Schoolcraft’s family and express its condolences while thanking them for his sacrifice.Chris Pfister, superintendent of Apollo Career Center, said Schoolcraft was the second student at the school to die in Iraq in recent months.When Christian Neff, a tank driver in the Army, died this past fall the school had a special memorial service for him at its Veterans Memorial Gardens, where they planted a tree.“My thinking is we will do the same for this student,” Pfister said. “It’s just very, very sad we’re losing these young people in this war. Here again, we’ve lost another young person.”Schoolcraft’s family said Monday evening they expect to have a special public service for him when he returns.Funeral arrangements were pending Monday at Bayliff & Son Funeral Home in Cridersville.Schoolcraft’s mom said her son went into the military shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, because he “wanted to protect everyone he loved in the U.S., to keep them safe.”This was his second tour in Iraq.“He always found a reason to make others smile,” Hooker said. “He had a killer smile that warmed your heart.”
WAPAKONETA — 5:23 p.m., Jan. 21 — Jon Michael “Mike” Schoolcraft III loved kids and wanted children of his own. He’d promised his mother, Cynthia Ann Schoolcraft, of Lima, that he would return home from his prolonged service in the Army and that when he returned, he said he wanted to start a family.However, Schoolcraft’s life ended Saturday in Iraq, his mother confirmed Monday afternoon.A 2001 graduate of Wapakoneta High School, Schoolcraft was killed Saturday. He had just turned 26 in December.Speaking briefly on the telephone Monday afternoon, Schoolcraft’s mother described her son as a brave soldier and a “very warm-hearted” man.She said members of the military came to her home earlier in the afternoon and notified her of her son’s death. “He planned to come home, which he promised me he would do since he enlisted,” she said, explaining that he enlisted out of high school. “I actually went through some of his pictures the other day. There are all kinds of pictures of him with kids.”Cynthia Schoolcraft said her son was recently married and he’d planned a long life with his wife.According to a wedding announcement in Sunday’s edition of The Lima News, he married Amber Leigh Van Weort at Salem United Methodist Church in Wapakoneta on Sept. 17.In school, Cynthia Schoolcraft said her son was involved in “everything” possible in terms of extracurricular activities, including wrestling, baseball, track and football.“He excelled in everything,” she said. "It’s a tragedy.” The soldier’s mother became emotional at times. She said, despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, she is holding up well or at least as well as could be expected.“The Army just came here a second ago,” she said. “He loved his family very much. He liked to kid around, and he was a good person and a good soldier. … From what I understand, his actions allowed others to survive and return home to their families. They told me he will receive the Purple Heart.”
ELIDA — William and Nancy Neff supported their son’s decision to join the Army. They have not wavered from that, even as they continue to mourn his death two months ago in Iraq. “We supported him in his choice and we would do it all over again knowing that he could possibly be killed, which we knew the first time,” William Neff said. “We would still do it again because it was what he wanted.” Army Spc. Christian Neff, who died Sept. 19 from wounds from a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq, was honored Thursday during a veterans program at Elida High School. His parents were presented with a plaque and $100 to go toward a fund in his honor to assist Apollo Career Center students. Neff was a 2006 Apollo graduate. More than $5,000 has already been donated to the fund. “We just want to make sure that nobody forgets Chris and that’s one reason why we set up the scholarship fund,” Nancy Neff told The Lima News after the program. “He is our hero and we want to honor him. ... It is such a shame he died so young, but he loved what he was doing.” The Neffs were not surprised when their son told them he wanted to join the Army. It was an interest he had had since he was a little boy outside in the yard picking up sticks to pretend they were guns and swords. “Nancy would be on the rider lawn mower and he would be behind the tree stalking her,” William Neff said, as he and his wife laughed together. Christian turned out to be a good soldier; his parents were told by commanding officers he could always be depended on. He drove the tank well and was a safe driver, they told the couple. He was in the lead tank when the bombing occurred. Christian Neff didn’t find much time to write home to his family, his parents saying he was too busy and too committed to his work. He was “finally living his dream,” they believe. The couple finds comfort in knowing Christian was making a difference in Iraq, a place he had only been for four and a half months. During that time, he befriended the people of Iraq, many of whom would often ask for him. “He would have a little spare time and go back out and talk with the Iraqi people, play with the children and dance with them,” William Neff said. “They would ask for Neff and they would want Neff to come out and dance with them.” Christian was learning to speak with his new friends. He had a notebook with him when he died. It contained a list of words both in English and the Iraqi language. Nancy Neff said that at a memorial service held for Christian in Iraq, members of the Iraqi military attended bringing flowers with them. “It was really an honor to us,” she said. “They had never had this happen before.” “In the short time he was there, he touched a lot of lives and made a difference,” William Neff added. “It makes us so proud.” The family recently returned from Fort Stewart, Ga., where Christian was based and where a tree now stands in his honor along with others who have died. “When the soldiers come back from Iraq they go to their buddies’ tree and pay their respects,” William Neff said. “It is really important for the soldiers to have that tree. It is kind of their connection with their buddies who lost their lives.” The Neffs are grateful for the support they have received since Christian’s death, saying presentations like the one in Elida on Thursday show that the troops and their son are not forgotten here. “The community, the Army, everyone has been so respectful and honorable to Chris and so supportive to us. And we just appreciate that so much,” William Neff said. Christian had told his parents he had “all kinds of stories” to tell them when he came home. They thought he was coming in January, but he was planning to surprise them and be home Nov. 17, his mother’s birthday. “So next weekend we are going to be gone,” William Neff said. “We can’t stand to be home and not have him come home.” “These holidays are going to be tough,” his wife added. The Neffs just this week ordered their son’s tombstone. The phrase “Freedom is not free” will appear on it. The same words were written on a bracelet Neff had on the day he died. “And he knew that,” William Neff said. “But he was still there, still fighting in the danger.”
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — When Chris Neff was 12 years old, he had a class assignment writing about what he would be when he grew up. His first thought was that he’d be a farmer, the Rev. Charlotte Hefner said, but then Neff realized, like his dad and grandfather, he was already a farmer, so he needed a second job, maybe a teacher. Too much school, Neff figured. Plan C was where his heart lay, a soldier. “It’s a dream I always wanted,” Chris wrote at the age of 12. “Even though I could be killed, I would die for my country.” Under a brilliant blue sky Friday on one of the first days of fall, more than 200 stood at Neff’s grave in Shawnee Cemetery missing his smirk and honoring his sacrifice. Neff, 19, died Sept. 19 from wounds from an explosion while on patrol in Baghdad. Family and friends gathered to honor him at his funeral at Shawnee United Methodist Church and his burial in the cemetery just behind it. From the time he was born, he was like sunshine, so many who knew him well said during his funeral earlier that morning. Being around him made you feel better. And that smirk made you wonder what secret he was hiding. Maj. Gen. Robert Williams presented Neff’s parents with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. “Chris had a reputation of doing the right thing, even when no one was around to check. In the Army we call that duty,” Williams said. “We have a number of core values in the Army we expect our soldiers to live up to. He exemplified all of them: a sense of loyalty, personal courage, and selfless service. It is a great honor to me to wear the same uniform as him.” Neff wore the uniform of the U.S. Army well. In picture after picture, Neff stood proud, even in fatigues and those no-nonsense thick black-rimmed glasses worn during basic training. He enlisted before he graduated from Apollo Career Center in 2006 and returned to school to talk to students to encourage them to follow their dreams as he had. His friends ended up being the friends of his sister, Shannon, a senior at Apollo this year. She remembered her brother as her best friend in a letter read by Hefner during the service that lasted an hour and a half. He would always give his advice, and listen after Shannon hadn’t listened to him and messed something up. Platoon members remembered a “true tanker,” an earnest but gullible soldier who could be counted on and who knew and performed his job well. And one who could eat. Neff earned a place on a restaurant plaque, Sgt. Roy Smith said, by eating the establishment’s $25 burger — three pounds of meat, a big bun, a little bit of “rabbit food” and a heap of fries. It took him 46 minutes, but he got the meal for free. During training, Neff had forgotten to clean his driver’s hole in a tank. A superior told him he’d have to sleep outside without his sleeping bag, so Neff set about building what amounted to a nest for himself, pine needles and all. The men let him do his thing before they said they were kidding. Neff gave a stare he was known for, before replying, “Dang, that sucks.” Neff’s platoon members recalled a man, but the pictures on two large screens showed first a baby, still at St. Rita’s Medical Center and wrapped in blue, then later with his hair standing on end and in a onesie styled like a tuxedo. A first birthday in his high chair, in the sand at the beach, with his dad playing on a toy John Deere tractor. Then growing up — showing off fangs in a Dracula costume, dressed as Santa Claus, getting off the school bus, driving a car, with a boutonniere and a date on his arm for a dance. And then, grown up. Neff, in an Army of One T-shirt, sitting on that toy tractor again, with his knees up to his chin, a son and a soldier at once.
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — A church along the route had a verse of Scripture on its sign. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 seemed more than fitting Tuesday morning for the lost son, soldier and Christian. Christian, in fact, was his name. The “all-around good kid” came home Tuesday, past flags lowered for him, past people who didn’t know him but wanted to honor his sacrifice, past schools in which he was a pupil not long ago. Just about 11 a.m., a procession for Army Spc. Christian Neff, 19, roared into Shawnee Township off Interstate 75 with an Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser and about 20 motorcycles escorting a hearse carrying his body and several more limousines of family members. They had traveled from a private ceremony at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, in which the military turned over Neff’s body to his family. The procession traveled through the township and past Apollo Career Center and Shawnee middle and high schools, where Neff was a pupil, graduating in 2006. It ended at Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home, at which calling hours will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. today and Thursday. Neff died Sept. 19 from wounds from a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq. He is the sixth person from the region to die in the Iraq War. The confirmed U.S. death total in Iraq stood at 3,797 Tuesday. “Our hearts go out to family and friends of all men and women serving this country no matter where they are in the world,” Neff’s family said in a statement. “We will be praying for peace so all soldiers can come home safely.” People who didn’t know each other until they gathered in common purpose Tuesday morning waited for the brief moment when Neff’s procession came by on Breese Road. When Judy Putt learned of the procession, she knew she wanted to drive to Breese Road. “He gave for his country so that’s why I’m out here,” Putt said. Dan Miller, a Navy veteran who also flew planes as a Marine Corps member in Vietnam, also didn’t know Neff. “Pay homage to one of our own,” Miller said. “He died in the military in service to our country and I believe the whole metropolitan area should be shut down and be out here.” Words caught in Theresa Garlock’s throat and a tear fell beneath her sunglasses when she spoke of Neff’s sacrifice. “If it wasn’t for people like him, I wouldn’t have what I have today,” Garlock said. “I didn’t know him. My father and husband’s father both served in the military ... a lot of relatives. I just feel so bad for the family, but so thankful for what he did. He’s a son they can be proud of. Very proud.” At Apollo, the procession drove under a giant American flag, hoisted in the air by ladder trucks from Shawnee and American Township fire departments. Career center students lined the driveway as the motorcycles and limousines zipped by. Pupils from Shawnee’s middle and high schools lined Zurmehly Road there as well. Shawnee schools Superintendent Paul Nardini said he was impressed with pupils for their respect of Neff. “It’s the least we can do,” Nardini said. “In my eyes, Chris is a hero. It has special meaning for me, because my son’s in the service. It was hard for me to fight back tears when he went by. This is a young man who died in the line of duty fighting for our freedom.” Neff’s family, in a written statement, remembered the young man as “the best son anyone could ever hope for.” “He was kindhearted and considerate of others. He was a believer and wore his WWJD wrist band for years until it wore out. Chris loved computers and spent hour after hour playing strategy and war games on them,” the family said. “He always did what he was told and was dependable. Chris was just an all-around good kid.” In the statement, his parents said they sensed he would choose military life and supported his decision, even though they knew how tough it would be to have a son serving his country. “We will always remember, respect and honor our son for who he was and what he stood for,” the family said. “May he forever rest in peace with God.”
LIMA — It wasn’t that long ago that Chris Neff was hard at work, perhaps even goofing off or talking to a friend in the hall on the way to a class, at Apollo Career Center and the Shawnee middle and high schools. This morning, a police and motorcycle escort will take his body past those buildings on his way Patterson Air from Wright Force Base to Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home for calling hours Wednesday and Thursday. Neff, 19, an Army specialist, was killed Wednesday by an explosion while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. Neff’s funeral plans were announced Monday. His body will arrive at Wright Patterson this morning with a military escort for a private ceremony, Army. Sgt. David Kuta said. And then, Neff will “come home,” as his mother, Nancy Neff, is saying about the trip, Kuta said. A police-escorted procession, including members of the Patriot Guard, motorcyclists who volunteer their time escorting fallen soldiers, will leave the base between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and travel north on Interstate 75 to the Breese Road exit. The procession will travel in front of the Shawnee school buildings and Apollo Career Center on its way to the funeral home. Friends may call at the funeral home from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. His funeral will begin at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Shawnee United Methodist Church, with burial immediately after. Neff was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga. In Iraq, he was an M-1 Abrams tank driver and gunner and a Humvee driver. He completed basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. Neff graduated in 2006 from Apollo Career Center in computer applications programming.
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — It was just a few weeks ago when Alan Pollock sat on his front porch chatting with Christian Neff. They talked about school and the service and myriad other subjects that, in the wake of the news of Neff’s death, seem kind of trivial. “Chris was over at my house just over the summer. He came hunting for my daughter and she wasn’t home, so I sat on the front porch with him and talked for a while,” Pollock said. “That’s what I thought of when I heard, that night on my front porch.” The 19-year-old Army specialist died in an explosion Wednesday while riding in a Humvee on patrol in Iraq. The Army said it was as improvised explosive device that killed him. Sgt. David Kuta, the military’s liaison to Neff’s family, said details are not yet available on exactly how Neff died or when services will be held. “He is in-country and we are anticipating that, hopefully, he’ll be in Ohio early next week,” Kuta said. Neff could be counted on to bring a smile to your face, his family said in a statement released through the Army on Friday. “Chris was a loving and special son, brother, and friend,” the statement said. “His calm nature and ornery smirk warmed the room. He will be so missed.” Neff’s family expressed appreciation for the gestures of sympathy they have received and offered their thoughts and prayers for families “who have lost loved ones while in the service to their country.” Neff has been posthumously promoted from private to specialist, Kuta said. Neff was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. In Iraq, he was an M1 Abrams tank driver and gunner and a Humvee driver. He completed basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. Neff graduated from Apollo Career Center in computer applications programming. Pollock was his teacher. Neff was also friends with Pollock’s daughter, Allison. News of his death came as a shock to a lot of people around his old school, where staff and students spoke Friday of the boy they recalled with a sharp mind and a shy smile. “He was the happy-go-lucky type. He was shy, but once you got to know him, he was funny,” Pollock said. That happy nature didn’t change, even after Neff knew he would be sent to Iraq. During that summertime visit on Pollock’s porch, worries about the war never came up. “He told me he really loved the military and liked what he was doing. But he didn’t seem like he was worried,” Pollock said. His family also said Neff loved the Army and had long shown an interest in guns, fighting and strategy. “It was natural for him to offer service to his country by joining the Army,” his family’s statement said. The students attending Apollo now didn’t go to school with Neff, who graduated in 2006. While some knew him through his sister, Shannon, 17, a student in the school’s health services program, most did not. “I don’t know if it’s affecting them or hitting them as hard as we think. … Students here don’t really know him. I don’t know how it will affect them,” Pollock said. Students were talking about Neff on Friday. More accurately, they were talking about his sacrifice, according to Pam Downing. “I think that, when his name has been brought up, I think they’re saddened by his death, but still there is a tremendous respect for him,” Downing said. Downing had that respect for the man well before his death. She served as adviser to the school’s student council, of which Neff was a member. And his commitment and energy for the post stuck with her long after he had moved on. “He was very quiet, but he was a leader nonetheless,” Downing said. “He was the kind who led by example. He was always there for the work as well as the fun.” For those who knew him, the fact that Neff was bright, energetic and genuinely kind makes his death that much harder to take. But it also serves as a reminder of the true cost of war, Pollock said. “You hear about everything going on with the war and you’re kind of numb to it,” Pollock said. “But when something like this happens, it just really hits home … it just hurts.” Reporter Heather Rutz contributed to this story.
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — The region has lost another soldier to the Iraq War. Christian Monroe Neff, a U.S. Army soldier and Shawnee High School and Apollo Career Center graduate has been killed serving in Iraq. Neff, 19, died on patrol Wednesday of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device, according to a news release from the Department of Defense. Neff was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. Neff’s sister, Shannon Neff, is a senior at Apollo Career Center. Apollo Superintendent Chris Pfister said Thursday the school’s community is mourning Neff’s death. “He was a nice young man,” Apollo Superintendent Pfister said. “It’s very sad. He was a fine young man. You hate to hear that.” Paul Nardini, now superintendent of Shawnee Local Schools, remembered Neff from middle school days when Nardini was principal. “He was a good kid. His parents were always very supportive,” Nardini said. “He was a very kind person. It’s just a shame.” Kim Martin, a spokeswoman for the recruiting office of the Army, confirmed Neff’s death, but said she had no details of the circumstances. Neff, the son of William and Nancy Neff, of Cridersville, was an honor roll student in Apollo’s information technology program and a 2006 graduate. He attended Shawnee United Methodist Church. The Rev. Charlotte Hefner, pastor of congregational life at Shawnee United Methodist Church, declined to comment about Neff. Hefner said the family asked her not to comment and that the family would issue its own statement to the press. No statement from the family was received as of press time at 11 p.m. Thursday. The family could not be reached for comment.
RUSHSYLVANIA (AP) — A man has honored his son who died in Iraq by designing a 3,300-pound black granite headstone with an almost lifesize image of the soldier, his M-16 at the ready. Mike Hodge said he agonized for months over the best way to ensure that the world wouldn’t forget his son, Army Sgt. Jeremy Hodge, 20, who was killed in 2005 when Iraqi insurgents attacked his convoy in Baghdad. “He was a constant source of excitement in my life, and I loved every minute of it,” Hodge said. “No matter what I thought of to honor him, it never seemed like enough.” While personal to Hodge, the 5-foot-10-inch tall marker also represents what those in the funeral industry say is a trend: out-of-the-ordinary, personalized and oversize headstones. “Everyone wants people to remember that they walked this earth,” said Bob Wells of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association.
LEIPSIC — The realities of war still ring true in a dead soldier’s words. Tony Wobler still thinks about those words all the time. He lost his 24-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Zachary Ryan Wobler, during a firefight in Mosul, Iraq, on Feb. 6. Nine months later, he recalled some of his son’s wisdom during a Veterans Day assembly at Leipsic High School. “In a letter he wrote, he said, ‘Dad, I’m not the same young boy I was when I left there. I’m hardened. Things have changed. I hope I can find forgiveness from God for the things we’ve done that we’re not real proud of.’” The 52-year-old father still knows his son, a squad leader in the 82nd Airborne Division, died doing what he thought was right. “He said sometimes we have to take a life,” Tony Wobler told the crowd. “He said it’s a terrible thing to have to look down a rifle scope into a man’s eyes, knowing you’re going to have to take his life. That happened on a regular basis there.” Tony Wobler said that added another dimension to his son. As a high school student at Ottawa-Glandorf, his father said Zach was an adventurous, charismatic and ornery young man. His time in the Army added the dimensions of alert yet troubled. The reality of a soldier’s life is the sacrifice he makes, said Russ Wenzinger, a history teacher at Leipsic who introduced Tony Wobler. “Tony comes in here having paid the ultimate price of sacrifice,” Wenzinger said. “He lost his son. He paid that price for others. We should all pay attention to his story.” Tony Wobler said his son, who completed Army Ranger and Delta Force training, knew about that sacrifice. He knew why he was so willing to protect others in a foreign land. He proved it when the two saw a man with earrings in his nose and eyebrows. “I said, ‘Zach, when you see someone like that, does it bother you after you’ve been in war for a year?’” Tony Wobler recalled. Zach Wobler’s reply impressed him. “He said, ‘You know, Dad, I fought over there for a year in Iraq, and I’ll probably go back. I fought for freedom. I fought so that person has the freedom to do what he wants to do. That doesn’t bother me,’” Tony Wobler recalled. “That was really a great experience. I was very impressed he felt everyone had the right to be free.” Tony Wobler urged students to answer their calling into the military services if it seemed important to them. “There’s nothing wrong with a military career,” he said. “Even though I lost my son, I’d say anyone who wants a nice career with a professionally run organization should go for it. They treat people well there. It’s a noble profession.”
RUSHSYLVANIA — An Ohio Army reservist died in Iraq when driving in the front of an armored convoy that was hit by a bomb Monday, his father said. Taking the lead on a dangerous mission showed the tenacity and irrepressible nature of Spc. Jeremy Hodge, said his father, Mike Hodge of Rushsylvania, 49 miles northwest of Columbus. “Of course, for a kid who had had his driver’s license suspended three times before he was 18, he’d be the lead driver in a convoy,” Mike Hodge told The Bellefontaine Examiner. J e r e m y Hodge, 20, was with the Ohio Army N a t i o n a l Guard 612th E n g i n e e r s Battalion. He graduated in 2003 from Ridgemont High School, where he was on the baseball, football and track teams. Principal Chad Cunningham described him as always offering to help faculty and fellow students. Hodge planned to make money for college in the Army, get a degree and maybe go into contracting like his father, but hadn’t really decided yet what he wanted to do, said Mike Hodge, who rehabs houses. The elder Hodge, an Air Force veteran, said they both understood when he enlisted that he’d be going to Iraq. “He liked what he was doing. He liked being out front,” the father said. Jeremy Hodge also is survived by his mother, Michelle Norris, of Fredericksburg, Va., and three younger sisters. The unit, called up last November, was due home by the end of December. Mike Hodge said he wouldn’t know funeral arrangements until the body was returned to the United States. Father and son last chatted using Internet messages Friday to catch up on family, Mike Hodge said.
WASHINGTON — An Elida man who died serving with the Army in Iraq has been honored by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. DeWine gave a speech on the Senate floor Sept. 9 about Capt. Dennis Pintor, who was killed in October 2004 in a roadside bombing in Iraq. DeWine honors all fallen Ohio soldiers with a floor speech and has an official copy of his remarks sent to family members, said DeWine spokesman Jeff Sadosky. DeWine also tries to speak with families of service members killed while serving, Sadosky said. Pintor, 31, was a 1992 Elida High School graduate. Days before his death, he wrote a letter to The Lima News asking people to send school supplies to children in Baghdad. Allen County residents responded, sending more than 100 boxes of supplies to Iraq. Pintor graduated from West Point and completed Army Ranger School. He served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo, part of S e r b i a - M o n - tenegro, formerly Yugoslavia, and was deployed to Iraq in March 2004. “Capt. Dennis Pintor was a selfless man,” DeWine said. “Thanks to his efforts, hundreds of Iraqi children have a chance for a better life. Thanks to his efforts, the Iraqi people have a chance for freedom.”
LIMA — It’s just a simple plaque, about 2 feet of brass and laminate etched with some dates and the name of Staff Sgt. Zachary Wobler. But to the soldier’s family, and to the men and women who will work around the plaque every day, it’s a giant reminder of the sacrifices made in their name. Workers from the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center were joined Monday by U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Findlay, and Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin in a ceremony dedicating the plaque to the fallen soldier. Oxley praised the Ottawa-Glandorf graduate’s service to the country. “He was a courageous young man,” Oxley said. “We’re all humbled to be able to recognize his sacrifice.” Griffin, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, said the plaque should remind everyone of the things for which Wobler stood. “Today we recognize an American soldier, a truly great American soldier, a hero,” Griffin said. Wobler died Feb. 6 during a firefight in Mosul, Iraq, where he was an Army scout leader with the 2nd Brigade, 325th Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He was 24 years old and the fourth area man to die in the war. Wobler’s family attended the dedication, including his father, Tony, who has been vocal in his opposition to the way the Bush administration has managed the war. He thanked the crowd for the honor and for their dedication to the soldiers, but later voiced his frustration with the way his son died. “We have the highest praise for the United States Army and these people building these tanks to help defend this country,” Wobler said. “But we also have a responsibility that we don’t go to battle in wars unless they’re justified.” Wobler said his son believed strongly in the principles of freedom, a principle he’s not certain the Iraqi people understand. “I’m not sure at this time, they share the same values. We have shown that we are ready to fight for their freedom, but until they fight for that freedom themselves, it will never last,” Wobler said. “Our political leaders need to figure that out, admit their mistakes and let the military professionals do what needs to be done.” Growing up in Putnam County, Zachary Wobler was taught to believe in freedom, faith and a sense of responsibility for others. His father worries that the young men growing up in Iraq are learning a different set of values. “They are taught hate. They are taught that to die in battle guarantees them a space in heaven. That’s hard to understand in a civilized country,” Wobler said.” And to those insurgents that drove by and shot my son, they breed nothing but hate and they can go to hell.” As angry as he is with the men who killed his son, Wobler knows his son loved the military, and would have appreciated the honor. “He was very proud to be a soldier, he said. “If my son were here today he’d be very proud of the way the people in Northwest Ohio have treated all of us.”
OTTAWA — Many people may enter Sgt. Omar Logue’s life, but he believes none will take the place of an Ottawa man he knew and served with for only nine months. Logue and others on Monday celebrated the life of Staff Sgt. Zachary Wobler, 24, and mourned his death. He was killed eight days earlier in Iraq. “He is irreplaceable. No one in this room forget it. He is irreplaceable,” the 34-year-old Logue told the several hundred people who filled SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Ottawa. “I will feel the loss of his presence in my life until I pass from this Earth. As I said, he is irreplaceable. Do not forget it.” Wobler died Feb. 6 during a firefight in Mosul, Iraq, where he was an Army scout leader with the 2nd Brigade, 325th Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. An injury sent the 1998 Ottawa-Glandorf graduate home from Iraq in March but he later chose to return. That was the sort of person Wobler was, his fellow soldiers said. Wobler was the fourth person from this area to die serving in Iraq. The previous deaths didn’t deter Wobler or change his stance on Iraq, according to a letter he sent to his mother. He wrote that, rather than criticizing the commander in chief, people should stand behind the troops. “The ways of the world tell us to be selfish, to see what we can get out of different situations. The attitude of me, me, me and I, I, I,” said Deacon James Rump, whose son played football with Wobler at Ottawa-Glandorf. “Zach wasn’t like that. He put his men before himself.” Logue said faith and family were important to Wobler, and he credited Wobler’s parents for different aspects of Wobler’s personality. Logue also requested the family one day tell Wobler’s 3-year-old daughter, Trinity, that her dad died making plans for the time he had missed with her and that he kept her picture on his dash. Staff Sgt. Michael Beal said he refused to believe Wobler died. The 29-year-old said that, while deployed in Iraq, he told Wobler about his marital problems. Wobler was the sort to listen and help, but never tell others, Beal said, adding that Wobler quickly put things in perspective: “Mike, snap out of it. Your men need you. I need you. Get ’em home alive. Worry about the marriage later.” “If I could turn back the hands of time and take his place, I would. That’s how much I loved him. That’s how much all of us loved him,” Beal told fellow mourners. Monday’s funeral Mass mixed Wobler’s patriotism and his faith. Members of his brigade, other military personnel, law enforcement officials and veterans organizations joined family and friends in packing the pews. American flags joined the candles, crosses and stained glass windows adorning the church. Representatives from area law enforcement rolled Wobler’s closed casket into and out of the church at the beginning and end of the 90-minute Mass. A roll call ended the service, with Wobler’s name repeating until it was announced he was no longer here. A 21-gun salute then rang out and a bagpipe player performed “Amazing Grace.” Burial will take place later in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington,Va. Wobler’s father, Anthony, and his fiancée live in Leipsic. His mother, Jeanette Poston and her husband live in Gate City, Va. Wobler’s brother, Brandon, lives in Payne.
LEIPSIC — A smudge reflected off the glass of the framed photograph of Army Staff Sgt. Zachary Ryan Wobler. The lip-shaped mark reflected one last kiss from a dad to his son, as a mixture of pride and sadness bubbled inside a grieving father. Wobler, 24, died Sunday during a firefight in Mosul, Iraq, as the Ottawa-Glandorf High School graduate tried to help a quick recovery team get to his scout team. “They took my boy,” said his father, Tony Wobler. “They took my son. But I’ll tell you something: He fought for his country. He did things he didn’t have to do. He didn’t have to die for those boys. I really have a great deal of respect for my son.” Words rang true from an e-mail recently sent from father to son. “Dad, it’s just like you,” the 24-year-old wrote in his message. “You’d give your life for your sons. I have to do the same thing for my men. I have to be sure nothing will happen to my men.” He died while fulfilling that promise. He became the fourth soldier from the area to die in Iraq. He left a mourning family in Ohio, including a 3-year-old daughter in Cleveland. Under attack Wobler led a team of Army Rangers into Mosul on Sunday when it started taking heavy fire from enemies, according to emails from his men to Wobler’s father. The team ducked into a building to escape it and called for support. The quick recovery team couldn’t find them in the foreign streets of Mosul, though. “Just think about this for a minute,” said his father, who now lives in Leipsic. “You’re walking down the street in Leipsic, Ohio. You don’t know where you’re at. Everybody here could be your enemy. Every car that goes by could blow up.” The quick recovery team needed some help finding the right building. Someone had to step out from the warehouse into the street. “Zach had every opportunity to send one of his men outside the building to let them know where they were at,” Tony Wobler said. “Zach wouldn’t do that. Zach went himself.” Shortly after stepping outside, a carload of six Iraqis drove by, riddling him with bullets. Wobler took shots in the leg, the arm and through the side of his flak jacket, into his chest, according to the e-mails from Wobler’s team. “He didn’t just lie down or fall to the ground,” Tony Wobler said. “He fought. He fought like a Ranger fights. … Zach was able to shoot and kill the driver of the car, after he’d been shot three times himself.” He left the scene on a stretcher and later bled to death. Army officials only told the family the young man died from a shot to the chest, joining the list of 1,445 military personnel who died up until Tuesday morning. “Having been to Iraq and seen what’s going on there, the sacrifice these people and their families make is heartbreaking,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley, RFindlay. “But it really is for a worthy cause and the elections, I think, pointed that out. Freedom is universal, and the fight for freedom continues. Our hearts go out to the loved ones.” Finding a calling Classmates truly liked Zach Wobler when he attended Ottawa-Glandorf High School. His friendly attitude and consistent smile on his face made him someone people befriended. “He was a very popular kid,” said his junior English teacher, Ginny Leis. “He was on the homecoming court his senior year. People saw him as a star athlete, playing football and running track. He loved his family and showed he had a lot of heart.” He joined the football and track teams partially to spend time with his friends. “He was a nicelooking young man,” his father said. “The girls loved him. He was really a good athlete. He was just such a fun kid. He lacked some direction in high school but found it after graduation in 1998. He wanted to become a federal marshal and decided military service might be his route. He enlisted in the National Guard after graduation. He attended Owens Community College, studying law enforcement, before enlisting in active military duty with the U.S. Army. His high school football coach, Ken Schriner, noticed the difference when he saw Wobler. “The changes he made after high school were really impressive and due to the military,” Schriner said. “I think he grasped his identity by going into the military.” Close call Military life certainly suited Wobler, who won several prestigious awards. He completed training for the elite Ranger and Delta Force groups. Wobler already served in Iraq once, fighting there from January 2003 until March 2004. He miraculously avoided death while walking through a home, said his brother, Brandon. “Zach said he heard something and turned around,” Brandon Wobler said. “There was an Iraqi with an AK-47, just spraying him, shooting at him constantly. He said he felt like there was something around him to protect him from the spray. I don’t know how he missed from 5 feet away. He unloaded his clip on him.” Wobler hurt his knee after getting hit by a car and returned home. After getting a magnetic resonance imaging scan on his injured knee, he talked his way into returning to Iraq in early December, despite still feeling knee pain. Loving his life Wobler made the most of his last visit home. He returned to the area for his brother’s wedding in November. He had the guests rolling as he and an Army friend performed “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” “Zach had this mountainman hairdo on,” his father recalled. “You couldn’t see anything but his eyes, and he had a big beard. He did a clog dance. It was great.” He showed that same passion for life while playing with his 3-year-old daughter, Trinity. While he and his wife, Corissa, separated nearly two years ago, he made the most of his visits with his young daughter. “When Zach came here with her, you’d never seen anything like you had with that father and daughter,” Tony Wobler said. “They played like two little kids for an entire week.” Unhappy surprise Monday marked Tony Wobler’s birthday. He and his fiancée, Marilyn Pester, returned from a family party Sunday afternoon. Pester started to leave for a quick shopping trip but returned quickly, telling her fiancé two men in uniform pulled into the driveway. “I was ecstatic,” Tony Wobler said. “I thought, ‘Zach did that again.’ He’d call me up and say, ‘Dad, how are you doing?’ I’d say fine. Then the doorbell would ring, and it’d be him, here to see me. I thought, ‘Zach’s here. He came to see me for my birthday.’” Instead, the two men delivered news no parent wants to hear. The couple thought the 24-year-old would be safe Sunday. Earlier in the day, Zach Wobler sent his father an e-mail wishing him a happy birthday, just in case he didn’t get a chance to deliver the message Monday. “We got that e-mail that very afternoon,” Pester said. “When the military turned into the driveway that day, I thought, ‘We’d just heard from Zach. Whenever we hear from him, we think, “He’s safe this day.”’ You’d feel a little relieved, and the pressure was off.” Tony Wobler said he was a Democrat and disagreed with the way the Bush administration and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld handled the Iraqi invasion. He believes more troops are necessary to safely help the Iraqis find democracy. Most of all, though, he wants to tell his granddaughter that Zach Wobler’s death mattered. “Time will tell if we can tell Trinity this war was justified,” he said. “We have to let her know her dad died doing his job. Whether the reasons were right or wrong, he died doing his job.” Lima News reporter Heather Rutz and correspondent Jim Langham contributed to this report.
ELIDA — The mother of an Elida native who drowned while patrolling last year in Iraq says she doesn’t understand what good can come from looking again into his death. Joanne Reese said Thursday that her family knew all it needed to know about the death of Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese, 31. No one ever will know exactly what happened, so U.S. Rep. Bob Ney’s request that the Army look into the deaths of Reese and Spc. Todd Bates won’t turn up new information, Mrs. Reese said. “There’s only three people (who were on the boat) and two of them are gone,” Reese said, responding to two days’ worth of stories about Ney’s request. “The Iraqi driver had only been driving the boat less than 30 days. They told us his story had changed 10, 15 times.” Staff Sgt. Reese fell off a patrol boat into the Tigris River on Dec. 10, 2003. Bates jumped into the water to rescue him, but both men drowned. Reese, a 1990 graduate of Elida High School who lived in Reynoldsburg, had written that soldiers often slipped on the boats, which he called small, Mrs. Reese said. William Lee, a retired lieutenant who served with the two men, said this week that U.S. soldiers were patrolling on Iraqi boats with Iraqi drivers. Conflicting stories have arisen as to whether the boat on which Reese and Bates were patrolling had safety equipment such as life jackets and safety poles. “I don’t see how they could say it. They weren’t there,” Mrs. Reese said. “God’s the only one who knows what happened.” Reese e-mailed his wife the same day that he drowned, telling her he had been out once on patrol. The mission of those on the boats was to draw fire from Iraqi insurgents in order to spot them for U.S. attack helicopters. Reese wrote that another soldier didn’t want to go on patrol, so he was going out on a second patrol. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. That was his way,” Mrs. Reese said. She said she was told there were two patrol boats, but the lead boat stalled, so her son’s boat went on toward the green zone in Baghdad. The Army told the family that Reese drowned. The missions stopped after her son’s and Bates’ death, Mrs. Reese said. A day or two after the deaths, her husband, Ed, sent an e-mail to President Bush about the lack of safety equipment, something their son told his family about. Mr. Reese received no reply. Mr. Reese could not be contacted for comment. A soldier told the Bates family about lack of safety equipment. Bates’ family then contacted Ney, R-St. Clairsville, leading to his request. Ney said he wants to reinforce the importance of using safety equipment or to make sure no one else serves without having such equipment. Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Findlay, sent a letter Wednesday to the Army supporting Ney’s request. Reese said Sen. Mike DeWine and a representative of Gov. Bob Taft both attended her son’s funeral. DeWine was the second person in line, she remembered. The news stories the last two days have been rough to take, Mrs. Reese said. The holiday season already would be tough without the added reminder of her son’s death. In fact, the last two months already were filled with special dates, good and bad. Her brother died Nov. 6, 1967, in Vietnam. A nephew was born in late November. Both of her grandchildren were born in December, and her son and his wife would have celebrated their anniversary Dec. 2. “I’m proud of my son no matter how he died,” Mrs. Reese said. “I’m proud of him. He wasn’t a coward. He knew what he was doing. He loved his soldiers, he loved his family, no doubt about it.”
ELIDA -- As news of the death of a hometown soldier in Iraq passed through the community Friday, those who knew Todd Reese remembered him as a quiet man who worked hard at whatever task confronted him. Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese, a 1990 Elida High School graduate, died in Iraq on Thursday after falling out of a boat while on patrol on the Tigris River, a raging waterway with a rough current, south of Baghdad. He was 31. Spc. Todd Bates, 20, of Bellaire, was listed as missing and presumed dead after diving into the river to try to rescue Reese, who was his squad leader, the Ohio Adjutant General reported Friday. Reese, the son of Ed and Joanne Reese, of Elida, was the first Ohio National Guard soldier to die as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the second soldier from the region killed during the war in Iraq. U.S. Marine Christian Gurtner, of Ohio City, was killed April 2. In a statement through the military, his family declined to be interviewed. Reese's sister, April Engstrom, in a statement through the GRAD/A7 GRAD/from A1 military, said, "(Todd) was a loving husband, son, father and brother. He loved doing his job and serving his country. He felt that it was his duty to serve and he loved the soldiers in his squad." On Friday, faculty and former students at Elida High School shared their memories of Todd Reese. Reese's Latin teacher of four years, Mike Herzog, remembered Reese as a young man who always had a smile. "He didn't have a bad day. He was always in a positive mood. Somebody you would look forward to walking in the room," Herzog said. "When I heard his name today, the first thing I thought of was his smile." Gary Evans, a business teacher who coached Reese in track and football, said Reese was not a star athlete who possessed a natural ability, but made up for it with his hard work. "He was one of those guys who got to practice and would work very hard," Evans said. Reese was a member of the track team in 1989 and 1990 when it won two Western Buckeye League championships. He was a hurdler, Evans said. "That was the best (team) I've ever had," Evans said. On the football team, Reese was a defensive back. Elida High School Principal Don Diglia said the news of Reese's death really hits home and reminds him of the dangers of war. Herzog agreed. "It makes the war a lot closer. We read about the war and the numbers. It still sounds like numbers until you hear a name you know," Herzog said. Herzog used to run into Reese's mother when she worked in produce several years ago at what is now Ray's Clocktower Plaza, he said. Like any mother, she always worried about her son, especially since he was in the military, Herzog said. Reese joined the military after high school and was a six-year member of the Ohio Army National Guard 709th Military Police Battalion and the 135th Military Police Company. Reese also had served seven years active duty in the Army, which had taken him to Korea, Panama, Honduras, Kuwait, Cuba and London. While serving in Honduras, he met his wife, Emilia, who he married on Nov. 29, 1996. The couple lived outside of Columbus in Reynoldsburg and had two young children under the age of 6 -- Anthony and Nicole. Reese was just home two weeks ago visiting his family before he returning to Iraq the day after Thanksgiving. A family member said Reese had planned to leave the military when his time was up, possibly as early as next month. Reese came from a family with a long and proud history of military service. His grandmother, Beda Shafer, of Lima, was a longtime president of the American Gold Star Mothers, a group of mothers who had a child killed during military service. She lost her son, Sgt. James D. Shafer, in Vietnam in 1967. James Shafer was a 1960 graduate of Elida High School. Although Reese left the Lima area after high school, old friends like Erick Hayes, a 1988 graduate of Elida High School, remembered running track with Reese. Like Reese, Hayes left the area after high school and last saw Reese about 10 years ago, he said. "He was an all-around good guy," said Hayes, who today lives in Lima. "He was never negative about things. He never had any enemies." Just two months ago, Reese's parents received a letter from their son's platoon leader, 1st Lt. William F. Lee, who said Reese was an outstanding leader. "I thought you should hear how well your son is serving his country," Lee wrote in the letter dated Aug. 11. "My first impression of your son was exceptional and he has continued to prove that he is an outstanding leader." Reese had completed numerous combat missions in and around Baghdad during the summer and was well respected, Lee wrote. "(Todd) takes great pride in the execution of his duties; proper training of his soldiers and is no doubt one of my best leaders," Lee wrote. Reese had great pride in serving his country, Lee wrote. "I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve with such a fine young man. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve with such an honorable soldier," Lee said. Next week, Reese's body will be returned home for funeral arrangements.
LIMA — There were tears and a few outbursts of laughter as pictures of Army Capt. Dennis Pintor flashed on a screen following a memorial service Friday night. There were pictures of a young boy with a big smile. Soccer pictures from Elida High School. Pictures having fun with his brother and two sisters, and posing with his parents at his U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduation. Wedding pictures from four years earlier when he married wife Stacy, and pictures of Pintor with his daughter, Rhea, in a swimming pool. And of course pictures in uniform, serving his country. “His life was one of integrity, bravery and service. … He was a positive example to us all,” an uncle, David Garrison, said a short time earlier during a memorial service at St. Gerard Catholic Church. Pintor was killed Oct. 12 in a roadside bombing in Iraq. The company commander of Bravo Company, 20th Engineers serving in Baghdad, Iraq, he had been in Iraq since March. Family members traveled to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last week where Pintor was buried on Monday. He was a 1998 West Point graduate and had planned to return as a professor. His family was presented a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in Pintor’s honor during the burial. Pintor was a 1992 Elida graduate, and had attended St. Gerard Catholic Church. His parents, Alberto “Bert” and Ellen Pintor, moved from the area in May to live in the Philippines, where Alberto Pintor is from. A couple hundred people attended the service Friday, all holding candles and singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” at the end of the service. Pintor’s love for his country and his family were themes throughout the service. “He was loved so strongly by so many because he loved,” Garrison said. “He loved his wife and daughter. He loved his family. He loved his country and his Army. He loved life, freedom and the United States.” While holding their daughter, Stacy Pintor talked of she and Dennis being married at St. Gerard four years ago. “Dennis was my answered prayer, my piece of heaven. He was truly my soul mate,” she said. Stacy Pintor said Dennis died doing what he truly believed in and loved — his country, the Army and the desire to do what was right for the people in Iraq. His brother, Bob Pintor, and sisters, Sara Gartland and Diana Pintor, read from letters and e-mails the family has received since his death. One came from a soldier, writing the family about a memorial service held for Pintor in Iraq. The letter said there were not enough seats for those wanting to attend, some of whom came a great distance over dangerous areas to get to the service. “Anyone who met him, even briefly, was touched,” the letter read. “He represented the best of what there is in this country,” a family friend wrote. “He made me proud to be an American, and even more importantly, he made me proud to be human.”
LIMA — Looking through boxes upon boxes of school supplies Friday, 3-year-old Rhea Pintor was asked if she knew who had collected it all. “Daddy” was her answer. The supplies will be shipped to children in Iraq, a request from Rhea’s father, Army Capt. Dennis Pintor, before he was killed in a roadside bombing Oct. 12 while serving in Baghdad, Iraq. Family members of Pintor were shocked at the amount of school supplies the community has donated, the family looking at least 30 boxes stacked in Elida schools central office. Pintor was a 1992 Elida graduate. “It would not have been as successful had he been still with us, but this is a very apropos memorial to a man who did the job and did it well, and had a good time doing it,” said his mother, Ellen Pintor. Supplies have also been collected at St. Gerard School and all Lima school buildings. Ellen Pintor is a retired Lima schools teacher, and the family attended St. Gerard Catholic Church, where a memorial service was held Friday night. Residents, other schools, businesses and organizations donated supplies. There are also ongoing collections in Columbus and New York, where Pintor’s three siblings live. “This is kind of a reminder of the kind of person he was,” sister Diana Pintor, of Columbus, said while looking at the heap of supplies. “I know it makes Dennis look down on us and smile,” sister Sara Gartland, of New York, said later during the memorial service. She thanked people for their donations. Friday marked the last day of the collections of school supplies. Pintor had asked family members to send supplies and had e-mailed The Lima News a day before his death asking residents to send supplies. While surprised at the amount of supplies collected, family members were not surprised that Pintor wanted to help Iraqi children. “It is not a surprise that he asked,” Ellen Pintor said. “I think he himself would just be overwhelmed. Things like awesome would come to mind.” Pintor’s widow, Stacy Pintor, of Killeen, Texas, said her husband was in charge of overseeing several schools in Iraq. He was responsible for securing the schools’ safety and going after suspected terrorists. “Dennis believed in his country and he believed in that mission there (Iraq),” she said. “It pains me that nobody sees the good that is being done there. Not only did he believe in that mission, but he believed in the Iraqi people and he gave them the dignity and respect that they deserved.” Stacy Pintor said Dennis showed this to the men and women he led, and that they are carrying it on with his spirit. “That’s what made him so different than any other leader,” she said. “He was truly a leader above his years and rank. And his heart was always there. He lived and died for those soldiers because they become families when you are in situations like that.” Ellen Pintor said her son grew up around educators so education was very important to him. He had planned to teach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he was a graduate. Ellen Pintor remembers her son taking time to visit her classrooms at North Middle School on Veterans Day a few times. He would give them orders, assign platoon leaders and tell them to line them up in a certain way. “When a platoon didn’t do what they were supposed to do quick enough, he would say, ‘drop and give me five,’ but he also dropped and did the push-ups with the kids,” she said, the story making the rest of the family laugh. Ellen Pintor said the supplies will be sent to members of Bravo Company, 20th Engineers in Baghdad. Pintor served as the company’s commander. The service men and women there will distribute the supplies. While the collection of school supplies ended Friday, the family is still accepting donations to help with the cost of shipping the supplies. Donations can be sent to Lillian Abelita at 4101 Spencerville Road, Lima, OH 45805.
ELIDA — U.S. Army Capt. Dennis Pintor had planned to finish his military career as a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. While his life was cut short last week in Iraq, the Elida graduate will be buried at West Point on Monday. “We are sure this is what he wanted,” said his aunt, Lillian Abelita, of Lima. “That is where he wanted to go when he came back. He was going to be a professor there.” Family members will travel to West Point this coming weekend to attend the burial service. Pintor had been selected to attend West Point while already serving in the Army. He spent four months as company commander, one of the highest positions in the cadet chain of command. He graduated in 1998. A local memorial service is planned for Oct. 29. The time and location have not been determined. Abelita said it will likely be at St. Gerard Catholic Church or the Veterans Memorial Civic Center. Pintor’s family attended St. Gerard Church. Pintor’s parents, Alberto (Bert) and Ellen Pintor are former Elida residents. They retired in May to the Philippines, Alberto Pintor’s native country. Pintor’s wife, Stacy, and their 4-year-old daughter, Rhea, live in Killeen, Texas. Pintor, who joined the Army after graduating from Elida High School in 1992, was killed Oct. 12 in a roadside bombing in Iraq. The company commander of Bravo Company, 20th Engineers, serving in Baghdad, Iraq, was one of three killed in the bombing. Pintor had been in Iraq since March, and previously served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. He had been trying to get people to send school supplies to the children in Iraq. Pintor sent an e-mail to The Lima News the day before his death asking people to send supplies, and he had talked to his family by phone asking them the same. His family is trying to fulfill his wishes by collecting supplies. Boxes have been set up at St. Gerard School and at all Lima and Elida school buildings for people to drop off supplies. The schools will continue to collect until the end of the month. Pintor’s mother is a former Lima schools teacher and several family members currently teach in the district. Pintor had been corresponding with a class at Lowell Elementary School, where one of his cousins taught. “We want to support his efforts and commitment to help the children in Iraq,” Lima schools superintendent Karel Oxley said, adding that Pintor had often visited Lima schools students. “We wanted to honor the kind of time he has given us.” The family is also accepting cash donations to help with the shipment of the supplies. Donations can be sent to Abelita at 4101 Spencerville Road, Lima, OH 45805. For details, call 419-999-6002. Abelita said she has already received about $100 in cash donations and that the collection of supplies is going well. She will begin shipping some of the collections in a few days. “I am very impressed with the response, and I am very thankful,” she said. “A lot of people that I don’t even know are donating. We really are very appreciative of this.” Elida Superintendent Don Diglia said each of the three school buildings has at least one box of supplies, and that the central office has a couple full boxes. He said some people have brought in book bags full of supplies. “It has really been the people in the community bringing supplies in so far,” he said. “We are going to start pushing it with the students in our buildings this week.” Elida schools has also established a memorial fund in Pintor’s name. Diglia said $310 has been donated so far. Checks should be made payable to the Dennis Pintor Memorial Fund and sent to Elida schools, 4380 Sunnydale St., Elida, OH 45807.
ELIDA — The grieving family of a local slain serviceman is set on making one of his final wishes come true. The family is getting help from local schools to do so. The last time U.S. Army Capt. Dennis Pintor talked to family members, he asked them to send school supplies to children in Iraq. Now family members are collecting the school supplies he so often talked about. Pintor, 31, died Tuesday while serving in Iraq. “We will do our very best to continue what he wished. That is the least we can do for him,” said his aunt, Lillian Abelita of Lima. Elida schools, Lima schools and St. Gerard School will have boxes in all of their school buildings for people to drop off pencils, pens, paper, and other school supplies. Pintor graduated from Elida High School in 1992, and his family attended St. Gerard Catholic Church. His mother, Ellen Pintor, is a retired Lima schools teacher and other family members are current teachers. Pintor’s parents, Alberto (Bert) and Ellen Pintor are former Elida residents. They retired in May to the Philippines, where Alberto Pintor is from. Pintor’s wife, Stacy, and their 4-year-old daughter, Rhea, live in Killeen, Texas. Pintor, who was the company commander of Bravo Company 20th Engineers serving in Baghdad, Iraq, was killed in a roadside bombing. He had been in Iraq since March. He joined the Army after high school and was later appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Abelita said there will be a local memorial service at St. Gerard Catholic Church in the coming days. Details have not been finalized. The family is hoping to have him buried at West Point. Pintor e-mailed The Lima News on Monday asking that residents send school supplies to the children in Iraq. “I tell you it makes a big difference in the kids and my soldiers,” part of the letter read. Abelita wasn’t at all surprised that Pintor wrote the letter, saying the message was the same as he was telling family members and friends. “That is exactly him,” she said. “He had been talking about helping the children. It was all he talked about.” Supplies can be brought to the school buildings, including administrative offices, during school hours Monday through Friday. The family is also accepting cash donations to help with the shipment of the supplies. Donations can be sent to Abelita at 4101 Spencerville Road, Lima, OH 45805. For details, call 419-999-6002. Elida Superintendent Don Diglia said the school was more than willing to help, both because of Pintor’s involvement with the school and because the supplies will help educate children. The Lima News received several calls Friday asking how people could help and send school supplies. Retired art teacher Judy Decker is e-mailing art teachers across the country asking them to send art supplies. Decker had Pintor in class. She too wasn’t surprised that he was trying to help the children. “I remember his smiling face in my class,” she said. “I want to help because of the kind of person Dennis was and his family. This is something I can do personally to show the children in Iraq that Americans do care about them.” Elida schools is also setting up a memorial fund in Pintor’s name. Diglia said a person came to the district offices Friday morning and donated $100 to start the fund. The donor wanted to remain anonymous. Diglia said he is not sure what the money will be used for, saying that the district will consult with Pintor’s family members to see if they have suggestions. Checks should be made payable to the Dennis Pintor Memorial Fund and sent to Elida schools, 4380 Sunnydale St., Elida, OH 45807.
ELIDA — On Monday, Army Capt. Dennis Pintor was trying to get people from his hometown to send school supplies to the children in Iraq. The next day, the 1992 Elida High School graduate was killed in an apparent roadside bombing. “He was an outstanding individual. He was an excellent soldier and he will be missed,” said Capt. Jay Wisham, who is part of Pintor’s Army unit. Pintor, who was the company commander of Bravo Company 20th Engineers serving in Baghdad, Iraq, was killed Tuesday. Further details have not been released by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Associated Press has reported that three American soldiers were killed Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. convoy in Eastern Baghdad. Pintor, 31, is the third soldier from the area to be killed in Iraq. Marine Corps scout Christian Daniel Gurtner of Ohio City died in April of 2003 and Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese, also an Elida graduate, died the following December. Pintor had been in Iraq since March, having previously served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. The Lima News received an e-mail from Pintor on Monday, asking that people in Lima donate school supplies to the Iraqi students. “School here has just begun session and many of the students need supplies,” the letter read. “People from across the U.S. have already donated great amounts of pens, paper, pencils, etc. I tell you it makes a great difference in the kids and my soldiers.” Wisham was not surprised that Pintor was trying to get help for the children. “He was just a very good guy all the way around. A good friend,” Wisham said. “He firmly believed in what we were doing over there. All he wanted to do was make things better for whoever’s life he touched.” Pintor is the son of Alberto (Bert) and Ellen Pintor, formerly of Elida. They retired in May to the Philippines, where Alberto Pintor is from. Pintor has several aunts, uncles and cousins living in Lima, including his uncle, David Garrison Jr. “In many ways Dennis was just an ordinary person, yet he was much more,” Garrison said Thursday. “Dennis represented and manifested the invincible American spirit.” Garrison said Pintor had recently talked to family members and also encouraged them to send school supplies to the children in Iraq. He had also been corresponding with a class at Lowell Elementary School, where Garrison’s daughter is a teacher. Pintor joined the Army after high school so he could earn his own education, Garrison said. “He wanted the family’s resources to be available for his younger brother and sisters,” he said. Pintor was later appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was selected to serve a four-month term as company commander, one of the highest positions in the cadet chain-of-command. He graduated from the academy in 1998. He was trained as an engineer, but also completed Army Ranger School. “He refused to take the easy way through life. As an officer, he was determined to receive all the tough training,” Garrison said, saying that Pintor had wanted to finish his military career as a professor at West Point. “Unfortunately, America’s future cadets will never have the opportunity to learn what this West Point hero might have taught.” Pintor met his wife, Stacy, in the Army. They were married in Lima and have a 4-year-old daughter, Rhea. His wife and daughter reside in Killeen, Texas. Garrison called him a good husband and father. “Dennis was the kind of father that would care for the baby in a restaurant allowing his wife to enjoy her meal before it got cold,” Garrison said. Pintor was remembered fondly at Elida High School. Guidance Counselor Alan Clum had Pintor in several math classes, including advanced placement calculus. He called Pintor a “really good” math, and all-around student. “He was a good student with charisma that jumped out at you,” Clum said. “He would bring an energy to class that would help keep the class going.” Clum called Pintor an inquisitive student, saying he was the kind of student teachers wanted to see in their classrooms. “He had a knack for being able to answer questions and ask good, appropriate questions,” he said. “He was just a good kid, great to have in class.” Pintor was on the school’s soccer and tennis teams, and was a member of the yearbook staff. Pintor’s younger brother, Bob, and two younger sisters, Sara and Diana, also attended Elida. “They were all good students like Dennis and just good people to have on campus,” Clum said. John Hullinger, a sports reporter for The Lima News, attended Elida High School with Pintor. He has fun memories of Pintor while the two “sat the bench” while playing freshman and junior varsity basketball. Pintor started what he called the “Red Knees Club” for those who didn’t get a lot of playing time. “He was the president of the Red Knees Club,” Hullinger said. “He was not one to complain about sitting the bench. He made the most of it and had fun with it.” Hullinger said happy-golucky described Pintor well. “You would never meet anyone who would have anything bad to say about him,” Hullinger said, noting he was proud to have known him. “These guys over there are making sacrifices so I can be back here living the life I live. They are on the front lines fighting for our freedom.” Garrison does not know about funeral arrangements for Pintor, saying he does not know if there will be a local funeral service. He said Pintor’s wife hopes to have him buried at West Point.
LIMA -- Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese was laid to rest Monday. But before that final stop, Reese was honored Monday for giving the ultimate sacrifice to his country, and his life was celebrated by all who gathered to pay their final respects to Reese who died in Iraq earlier this month. Reese was eulogized as a soldier, father and husband who cared a great deal for his family just as he did for his country. His uncle, John Shafer, spoke of a family tradition. "It was a love of family, God and country," Shafer said. "Todd lived that way." Shafer started the eulogy by referencing Time Magazine's "Person of the Year: the American soldier." "Todd, we bring you home as a hero," Shafer said as his voice cracked. Reese, 31, died Dec. 10 in the Tigris River in Iraq after falling from a boat while on patrol. A fellow soldier, Spc. Todd Bates, jumped in to try to rescue Reese. Bates, of Bellaire, went under water and his body has not been found. He is presumed dead. Reese, a 1990 graduate of Elida High School, was assigned to the 135th Military Police Company, 18th Military Police Brigade. Reese was the first Ohio Army National Guard soldier to die as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Several hundred people, including family, friends and soldiers packed into Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home on Cable Road. A patriotic theme dominated the room with red, white and blue bouquets made up or roses, carnations and mums. Reese lay in his flag-draped gray military casket and dressed in his "Class A" uniform with numerous medals pinned to his chest. A photo collage was nearby showcasing his life, beginning at birth. A crush of soldiers filled the funeral home, some dressed in "Class A" uniform and others in camouflage. Those in camouflage just returned from Iraq last week. Three songs, "Wind beneath my wings," "I believe" and "Let there be peace" were played on the piano during the funeral. Reese's family was presented with the Bronze Star for service above and beyond the call of duty in a combat zone. They also were presented with the Ohio Distinguished Service Medal for service to the Ohio National Guard. Shafer described several of his fondest memories of Reese that included a young boy with fiery red hair and an illuminating smile that everyone always remembered. Before Reese left for Iraq earlier this year, Shafer and his wife spoke to Reese about his deployment. "We were thoroughly impressed with his focus," Shafer said. "He REESE/A5 REESE/from A1 was not concerned for himself, he was concerned for his family." In 31 years, Reese's life was full of accomplishments from military honors to the love he had for his wife, Emilia, and their two children, Anthony and Nicole, Shafer said. "He will continue to live through all of us for eternity," Shafer said. Reese's father, Ed Reese, also spoke of the military tradition in the family. "What you see in our family is a lot of red, white and blue. We fly our flag proudly," he said. Ed Reese thanked the various people in his son's life, including Todd Reese's widow and mother, before saying his son always would be remembered. "Son, may you now rest in peace," Ed Reese said. Another uncle, Michael Reese, referred to Todd Reese as a servant in every aspect of his life from his duties in the military to his friends and family. "He served his country well. We're extremely proud of his contribution," Michael Reese said. "Todd will be greatly missed but will be remembered fondly by his family, friends and all the people he touched." U.S. Army Chaplain Kenneth Kirk asked the young children in the room to step forward and describe two leaves, as an analogy to life. Kirk later used the leaves to explain Reese's death. "Now I have a question. Which one is happier?" Kirk asked. "This one," several of the children said, pointing to a brown, dead leaf. Referred to the leaf, Kirk said it was happier and in a better place, just like Reese has traveled to. "He's with God," Kirk said. Kirk explained that people's lives were similar to leaves. People age as they get older, just as leaves turn from green to brown, he said. As the chaplain said that, one child said, "Uncle Todd went to be with the lord." "That's exactly right," Kirk said. Kirk said it was sad to say goodbye to people when they die, but everyone should be assured that Reese was in a better place. Following the services, the funeral procession of about 100 vehicles made its way down Allentown Road to the Allentown Cemetery. Reese was given a 21-gun salute and his family was presented with the American flag that had draped his casket.
LIMA -- Aaron Todd Reese devoted much of his adult life to service to his country, but he was just about ready to move on and focus on his family full-time. "His Army hitch was going to be over," said his father, Ed Reese, Friday afternoon. "He wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to his family and his children." Staff Sgt. Reese, 31, was due home on Jan. 5 from a tour in Iraq with the Ohio National Guard's 135th Military REESE/A7 REESE/from A1 Police Company. Instead, he slipped off a patrol boat on Dec. 10 and died. Another soldier, Spc. Todd Bates of Bellaire, dove into the Tigris River after him, and has not been found. In the first and last press conference the family will hold, Ed Reese said his son was proud to be a soldier, and praised Bates for his efforts to save his son. "Todd loved his country and was proud to be a soldier. He loved his family, where Todd gathered his strength, and he will now rest with his grandfather and uncle," Reese said. His uncle, Sgt. James D. Shafer, died in Vietnam in 1967. James Shafer was a 1960 graduate of Elida High School. His grandfather, Spc. Paul T. Shafer, served in the Army in World War II. Reese said the family is coping as best it can by flipping through old photographs of their son. Sgt. Reese's wife, Emilia, and two children, Anthony and Nicole, survive in Reynoldsburg. "It's really been difficult. That's our only son, and I think we're in for an even bigger shock," he said. "It's tough when we're expecting our own son home for Christmas." Reese also had high praise for Bates. "Todd Bates was a hero, though his efforts to rescue our son were in vain," he said. "Our son took care of his platoon, and they all loved him."
OHIO CITY -- The last time Eldona Wagonrod heard from her son, Christian Daniel Gurtner, was on Feb. 6. His ship, the USS Comstock, made an unscheduled stop, and he was able to call her. Later that month, he landed in Kuwait where he was a part of the Marine 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Wednesday morning, Gurtner, of Ohio City, died from an accidental gunshot from his own weapon while he was on a mission in Iraq. Gurtner, 19, was a 2002 graduate of Van Wert High School. "He was excited and anticipating his mission in Iraq," Wagonrod said. "He was good to go; that's what he had been trained for." Wagonrod said on Friday afternoon that her son was influenced to go into the Marines after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. "He wanted people to have the privileges of life that he had," said Wagonrod. "He had a commitment to the Marines, and he had a commitment to his family and friends. He knew what he had, and he was proud of it." Wagonrod was wearing a T-shirt that read, "My son, one of the few, the proud, a Marine mom." Gurtner was the product of a long line of military service in his family. His grandfather was in the Air Force, his great-grandfather was in World War II, and his great-great-grandfather was in World War I and World War II. In addition, his great-uncle served in the Marines in Vietnam. "He was proud of his family heritage, but I don't think that's what influenced him to become a Marine," Wagonrod said. "He went into the Marines because he felt his own personal commitment to serve our country." Gurtner, the son of Gary and Eldona Wagonrod, was the first Ohioan serving in Iraq to be killed, according to the Marines. "We are very proud of Christian's decision to be a Marine," Wagonrod said. "We and all of our family supported his choice because he knew what he wanted. He was willing to do what was needed to be done. Christian was a Marine through and through. He loved his country; he loved bowling, and he loved his Braves and Buckeyes. "Our family loved and admired Christian for his belief and dedication to duty. Christian's reason for being a Marine was to give everyone hope of a life that he had had." Marine Chief Warrant Officer Suzanne Handshoe said that Gurtner died on April 2 from an accidental gunshot that entered his right chest and exited the left shoulder. He died of cardiac arrest. Handshoe read a letter from 2nd Lt. Brett Eubank which referred to Gurtner as a valuable asset to the third platoon. Eubank said that Gurtner had contributed both skills and hard work to his unit. Wagonrod said that President George Bush and Gurtner's fellow Marines -- and all troops -- have their family's full support. "We pray that no other families will have to face what we are facing right now," Wagonrod said. "We would like to thank all of our family and friends for all of the support we have received. The people of Ohio City and Van Wert have been wonderful. We would also like to thank the media for respecting our wishes. "I am a Marine mom; I will move on -- day by day," Wagonrod said.
OHIO CITY -- Van Wert High School senior English teacher Bitsi Clark will never forget the last time that she saw Christian Daniel Gurtner. He stood tall and proud and was confident in what he was doing. "He came back to visit, and he was so enthusiastic," Clark said. "He beamed; he had been to Paris Island and his whole life had changed. It's the image I will always have of him. All day yesterday that's all I thought about. It's how I will always remember him." Gurtner had died Wednesday morning in Iraq during a mission. According to the Marines, Gurtner was the first Ohioan serving in Iraq to be killed. Students and faculty at Van Wert High School, where Gurtner had graduated last spring, reacted with instant respect and shock. "He was a very dedicated student, hard-working, with a great smile," said teacher Diana Shields, who had spent a lot of time working with Gurtner. "He chose the career path he had always wanted to follow. Once he made his decision, he was very proud of it. He came back to high school in uniform. He was so proud of it." Shields said when Gurtner worked at Willow Bend Country Club and Dairy Queen in Van Wert, he had considered going into a culinary arts profession. But when he investigated the Marines, it seemed like the best choice for him. "He liked the idea of defending his friends and defending the country," Shields said. "He believed in his values, and he believed in helping others. Van Wert High School student Nick Scott was a close friend of Gurtner in the school's bowling club. He described Gurtner as a person who was always laughing and full of energy. "He was the life of the party type; He always had something to say or do," Scott said. "He was a great guy. He always made things interesting. "Before he joined the Marines he didn't say much, but he left us all know that he was proud to serve his country." Scott said he and Gurtner visited when the latter visited during a break in late October. He had just finished boot camp and was home on leave. "He told us that the military was tough, but he was glad that he had made it through so far," Scott said. "He was happy to be where he was. He was very happy to be a Marine. He was glad to be with us again. He always enjoyed bowling, his friends, and being around the people that he cared about. "I couldn't believe it when I heard that he had died," Scott said. "I didn't know what to do. I was just shocked." Connie Ainsworth, Gurtner's senior counselor, said that Gurtner went through a period of "senioritis" near the end of last year. "I explained to him that sometimes we have to go through situations that we don't like the best in order to get to what we like to do," Ainsworth said. "He stepped up to the challenge and graduated with success. He went and did what he wanted to do." "This really brought things home to us," Shields said. "We see all that's going on with the war when we watch TV, but this makes it real. This brings it right home to where we're living."
OHIO CITY -- Marine Corps scout Christian Daniel Gurtner wanted the Iraqi people to have the same privileges as he had as an American. The 19-year-old Ohio City man died Wednesday morning in Iraq during a mission he felt proud of doing. Marine Chief Warrant Officer Suzanne Handshoe said Gurtner died from an accidental gunshot from his own weapon into the right side of his chest. Gurtner's unit, the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, was in combat with Iraqi forces at the time, Handshoe said. Gurtner was the first Ohioan serving in Iraq to be killed, according to the Marines. Gurtner, a private first class infantry scout with the unit, landed in Kuwait in February. In his last letter to his family in Ohio City, he said he was proud to help overseas, according to Handshoe. Gurtner's parents, Gary and Eldona Wagonrod, were grieving and did not yet want to speak publicly. They instead passed on a hand-written statement, released through Marine representatives: "He was a proud Marine. He believed in what he was doing. He wanted Iraqis to have the same privileges as we Americans. He is dearly missed. From his family to everyone who is still there fighting, stay strong and we support you," the family's statement said. Gurtner joined the Marines in March 2002, just prior to his graduation from Van Wert High School. Staff Sgt. Eryck Little, who recruited Gurtner out of his Van Wert recruitment office, said he came from a military family. "I believe they have someone in each of the branches, going back to his grandfather and great-grandfather. I know it was something that was in his blood, to be a serviceman for his country," Little said. "We are a very big Marine Corps family, we all take care of each other," Handshoe said, explaining other Marines had contacted her with information to send condolences to Gurtner's family. Gurtner's body should return to Ohio in 14 days, Handshoe said, with a military funeral to follow. Gurtner's home is just a few blocks from the center of Ohio City. American flags adorn light poles along main street, along with yellow ribbons. At the house, more ribbons were wrapped around trees, a "support the troops" banner hung from the porch and a blue star hung in the window. Neighbors criss-crossed from their homes to the Gurtner residence, expressing condolences and some bringing food. The driveway and home seemed full all day long as people learned the news and drove up and down the road in the small town. "It's sad to hear that. He was fighting for our freedom. He died in service for our freedom," said town resident Jack Brown. GURTNER/A11 GURTNER/from A1 Many members of the community were shocked at the news and honored the family's request for privacy. "I will fly the flag at half mast for three days to honor him," said Ohio City Mayor Buck Wert. Flags were flown at half staff in Van Wert as well as Ohio City following the news of Gurtner's death. Wes Gottschalk, a classmate and bowling teammate of Gurtner's, said he was easy to talk to and always willing to help out. "He's just one of the people who would help you if you need it," said Gottschalk, a junior at Van Wert High School. Gurtner was a very good bowler and often helped his teammates, he said. "He's an easy-going person, easy to talk to, easy to get along with." While Gottschalk didn't know Gurtner had joined the Marines, he said Gurtner was the kind of person who would be willing to fight for his country. "He's one of those people that would do it," he said. Word of Gurtner's death spread around the school on Thursday, and Gottschalk said he didn't believe it at first. He said he'll be paying more attention to war coverage now that it's hit close to home. Van Wert schools superintendent Cathy Hoffman said Gurtner was "a great kid, the kind of kid you'd want to see walking the halls of any high school." Hoffman and other school officials visited the Wagonrods on Thursday. "The one thing that was very clear, that they stressed to us, was that Christian was doing exactly what he wanted to do," Hoffman told the Associated Press. "He wanted to fight for the United States." Counselors were on hand at the school, where students were notified Thursday afternoon and observed a moment of silence. Little said this was the first recruit of his who has died. Little said he considers his recruits as his friends since he becomes very close to them and their families before and after they join the service. "Once I heard this morning that Christian had died, I was just as heartbroken as his family," Little said. Little recalled the day he recruited Gurtner. "Christian was about 10 seconds away from joining the Army when I met him. I stopped him, talked to him for about three minutes," Little said. Gurtner went to get his mother to sign the papers soon after, Little said. "He said he wanted to be an infantryman," Little said, describing that as the ideal Marine. Little said Gurtner was single but had a 2-month-old daughter. Reporters Jim Sabin and Heather Rutz contributed to this report.