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Last updated: August 24. 2013 5:49AM - 231 Views

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   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.



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