Thursday, October 26, 2006

Camden (Amos C.R.) Bock killed by roadside bomb

NEW MADRID, Mo. -- A soldier from Southeast Missouri died Sunday while serving in Iraq.

First Lt. Camden Bock was on patrol in Baghdad when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Bock, 24, of New Madrid, was a member of the 101st Airborne based in Fort Campbell, Ky.

Family, friends and teachers remember Bock, a West Point graduate, as a dedicated skeet and trap shooter, a stellar student and a natural leader.

"He was very bright, very outgoing, very much his own person. From childhood to a young adult he was always mature beyond his years," said Kate Hampton, who taught Bock in seventh and eighth grades at Immaculate Conception School in New Madrid.

Bock's mother, Jill, is managing editor of the Sikeston Standard-Democrat. His father, Riley Bock, is a former prosecuting attorney for New Madrid County. Riley Bock said the family was "counting down the days" until Camden's homecoming, which was scheduled for Nov. 14.

"To us it's a big personal loss, but it's also a tremendous loss to the community and to the country," he said.

Bock compared the community response to seeds that lay dormant for years sprouting again in the rain. "We've heard from people we'd lost contact with for years, so there is some positive," he said.

Bock was one of five U.S. soldiers killed Sunday in separate gunfire and roadside bomb attacks. That brought total U.S. deaths in October to 85, the fifth-highest monthly figure since the invasion in 2003.

Funeral plans are still pending because military officials have not yet given a date when the body will be transported home.

Bock, an honor roll student, joined the National Guard while still in high school. He was part of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, Company C in Sikeston. He excelled there and in the summer of 2000 entered West Point as one of the Army's 1,200 elite candidates for officer training.

At West Point, he majored in geospatial engineering, a field of geographic mapping, and received his degree in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in late November 2005.

His father said he was a platoon leader in southern Baghdad charged with leading 20 men and four Humvees on patrols. A typical schedule would be three days of active patrol and one day for vehicle repairs.

"They're not allowed to tell you a whole lot, but it was obviously dangerous work. He didn't want to say anything that would make his mother worry," Riley Bock said. "We chitchatted on the phone regularly, mostly about family stuff. He was always upbeat. He just did the best he could to take care of his men and do his job."

Teachers and coaches from Bock's time at Central High School in New Madrid remember a dedicated student who enriched the classroom.

"He always aspired to a certain excellence. I think he looked at military as 'these people have a plan' and he liked a plan, liked the idea of order," said Hampton.

But Bock never shied away from speaking his mind, she said, recalling that even as a youngster he regularly gathered classmate's signatures and petitioned for changes to rules on uniform restrictions or recess time.

"He was very much concerned with what was fair," she said.

In a silent protest about rest-room break rules, Bock constructed a miniature outhouse out of construction paper and set it by his desk.

"He was never ugly about it, but he kept it there to say 'just in case you think I don't still disagree with you, look at this,'" she said.

Arlen Pixley coached Bock as a wrestler in the 125-pound weight class. He remembers a leader and fierce competitor who always put the team ahead of himself.

"He was a very savvy athlete. He was never the strongest when we went into the weight room, but he made up for it with his mental toughness," he said.

Pixley said the news has come as a serious awakening to the school.

"Even the students here who didn't know him have been affected by it. When they put their heads down at night, I hope they remember Camden and just have respect elevated for all the folks that put their butts on the line overseas so we can sit here and pop a soda at the end of the day," Pixley said.

Michael Jensen, publisher of the Sikeston Standard Democrat, said he got an unexpected reminder of Bock while cleaning his desk recently. He found a thank-you note Bock wrote for a gift of golf clubs when he was 11 years old.

"That was him; he was the kind of young man who, because of his upbringing, would take the time to write a thank-you note," Jensen said.

"Words can't express the sadness we feel right now."

Those who knew Bock are in the early stages of setting up a college scholarship in his honor. No memorial events have yet been scheduled.

From the Southeast Missourian