Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ross A. Clevenger dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Army Sgt. Ross A. Clevenger told his family not to worry -- the armored vehicle in which he rode was state of the art and could withstand most explosions.

Now the family is left with grief and questions as they absorb the news that Clevenger died Thursday in a bomb explosion in Iraq.

Clevenger, 21, formerly of Kennewick, was riding in Iraq's Anbar prov-ince west of Baghdad when the vehicle was hit. Two soldiers from Idaho also died.

The soldiers were among about 300 reservists from the Boise-based 321st Engineer Battalion who left in September for duty in Iraq, The Associated Press reported.

The unit's leaders said they would spend a year clearing roadside bombs that have been responsible for hundreds of U.S. troop deaths and injuries. The soldiers trained in Missouri and Wisconsin last summer, learning urban warfare tactics and how to spot and remove roadside bombs, the AP said.

Clevenger was riding in a mine protective clearance vehicle commonly referred to as the Buffalo. It has extra armor and uses a robotic arm to check suspicious roadside devices.

His commanding officer told Clevenger's family he didn't know whether the explosion came from a roadside device or was launched through the air.

"They said they'd never seen a bomb like that before," said his father, Loren Clevenger of Finley.

He last heard from his son on Super Bowl Sunday, when he left a cheerful message, laughing and saying "hi" to his dad. The family hoped to save that message.

On Friday, they remembered him for his positive spirit and love of the outdoors.

He didn't have trouble entertaining himself, whether playing video games and watching movies or wandering off on a trail alone while camping in the woods.

After one family camping trip, Clevenger showed the others pictures he had taken, and they were surprised at the sights he had discovered.

"They said, 'Wow, where were you?' He found stuff they didn't see," recalled Nancy George, Loren Clevenger's fiance.

Ross also enjoyed snowboarding, motorcycles, horseback riding and fishing. An Army reservist, he planned to go into nursing after his service was up. He liked to say some day he would buy a cabin, and his dad could come to live with him when he got old.

Clevenger volunteered to work in demolition as a reservist so he could get a large college scholarship, his father said. The family didn't like him working with explosives, but they were proud he worked to save lives by clearing explosives away.

He told them he believed in what he was doing and the mission in Iraq.

"He said maybe we shouldn't have went over there in the first place, but once we went there, it was the right thing to do," Loren Clevenger recalled.

"He told me, we got Saddam out of the picture, and all these other countries are trying to come in and take over. It's a real dangerous place, and a lot of innocent people would die if we pull out."

Loren Clevenger said his pain leads him to think the United States shouldn't be over there at all. But he tries to remember his son's attitude.

"I'd rather think the way he did. He thought the best way," his father said.

In addition to his mother and father, Ross Clevenger is survived by a brother, Brandon Ross of Nampa, Idaho, and eight half-brothers and half-sisters.

From the Herald