Saturday, March 24, 2007

Anthony A. Kaiser killed by small arms fire

Narrowsburg — As he did on Monday, Andrew Kaiser went to work yesterday in a small office on the main floor of Catskill Regional Medical Center — working to keep his mind off his dead son. He is arranging the funeral of his son, Pfc. Anthony Kaiser, 27, who was killed Saturday in Iraq, in long-distance calls with his son's widow, Heather. She is flying from Washington state later this week, Kaiser said. The details of the funeral are still to be worked out.

She can't speak for long without breaking down. Kaiser hopes she is left alone by reporters for a few more days.

In Narrowsburg, where Anthony grew up, the flags at Town Hall and the fire department are at half-staff.

"The town is in mourning," said Cindy Burkle, a friend of Anthony's.

"We know everybody, we are like a family here," said Lisa Conte, 25, a schoolmate, who was ringing up customers at Peck's Market.

"He was such a decent guy," said John Ogozalek, his former history teacher, who was in the process of writing the address on a care package he planned to send to Anthony when he found out he had been killed. "Yesterday, I think the school was recovering from the shock."

Details are few as to why Anthony Kaiser died, even to his family. The Army has told his father that he was killed in a firefight.

Anthony, a military policeman who was stationed in Baghdad, had been in Iraq for about six months, his father said. He often searched for weapons and bombs on military checkpoints. On infrequent calls home, he told his father that he sometimes also searched for roadside bombs. The Army will only say that "he came into contact with enemy forces using small-arms fire."

Back in Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was stationed, there will be a service today. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist.

"He was a great soldier," said Lt. Col. James Mullen, his battalion commander. "Everybody talked about what a great soldier he was and how bravely he served."

Anthony last called home about three weeks ago. He told his father that he wanted to come home. He had no regrets. Kaiser told him that he packed up some razors and was shipping them over.

In his office yesterday, Kaiser took down a photo of his son that is tacked to a board next to his desk.

In the photo, Anthony is wearing his dress-green army uniform and a black beret, the mark of a military policeman. He is smiling. "He definitely was a hero," Kaiser said.

From the Record