Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thomas E. Saba killed in helicopter crash

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — Marine Cpl. Thomas Saba could have returned home from Iraq in April, according to his parents.

Instead, the 30-year-old, who was raised on Staten Island, chose to stay on with his comrades — a decision that ultimately led to his death last Wednesday.

"He didn't have to go to Iraq. He chose to go. He wanted to be with his brothers," Barbara Saba, the Marine's mother, told the Staten Island Advance for Friday newspapers.

Barbara Saba told the Asbury Park Press that her son was also an "absolutely fantastic son, brother and uncle."

Saba, along with four other Marines and two Navy personnel, were on a helicopter mission to evacuate casualties when the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter they were on went down, Sgt. Douglas Paul of the Marines' 6th Motor Transport Battalion in Red Bank told the Asbury Park Press.

The U.S. Department of Defense on Saturday had yet to officially identify Saba as one of the victims in the crash in Al Anbar province.

News of the crash came at the same time that an insurgent group linked to al-Qaida posted a Web video showing what it said was the downing of the helicopter.

Anthony and Barbara Saba said they last spoke to their son on the telephone Feb. 4 while they were visiting central Florida, which had been ravaged by tornadoes days before.

"He was worried about us," Barbara Saba told the Press.

"And there he was in Iraq," Anthony Saba added.

Thomas Saba lived mostly in Staten Island, where he grew up and graduated from Susan Wagner High School, but he stayed at his parents' Toms River home for about four to five months before starting boot camp in 2002.

Thomas Saba's aunt, Sonja Debs, told the Staten Island Advance that she had tried, and failed, to dissuade her nephew from going to Iraq.

"It was something he wanted to do. He said, 'Do you want 9/11 to happen again? I'm going to fight for my country,'" Debs said.

Along with his parents, Thomas Saba is survived by a brother and two sisters.

From the SI Advance