Saturday, March 24, 2007

Benjamin L. Sebban dies of injuries from I.E.D.

SOUTH AMBOY — Benjamin L. Sebban had said he would make the U.S. Army a career if he achieved the E-7 rank.

On Mar. 15, the man who grew up in the borough picked up a satellite phone overseas and delivered the good news to his mother, Barbara Filik Walsh, of Neshanic Station.

"He made E-7," Walsh recalled, "and he was just so thrilled."

Two days later, however, Sgt. 1st Class Sebban, 29, died in Baquoba, Iraq, from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit.

Family members assembled in City Council chambers Thursday to recall a kind and courageous man smitten with Army life.

"My brother was more than just a brother," said Daniel Sebban of Franklin Park. "He was a hero and a friend."

The late soldier was reportedly trying to warn fellow troops when the device exploded, and he then treated the injured before dying.

The former St. Mary's Elementary School student and 1996 graduate of the Middlesex County Vocational-Technical High School system was previously deployed twice to the Republic of Georgia and had served one tour in West Africa. When he heard a senior combat medic was needed in Iraq, family members said, he didn't hesitate to volunteer.

"He was an awesome son," Walsh said with teary eyes. "He was an awesome combat medic."

Walsh said there was "something different about Benjamin." When her son was born in Tunisia, Africa, as a U.S. citizen, Walsh had a dream about Benjamin and "something about Patton and Germany."

When Benjamin Sebban had joined the military, she said, she found among his belongings a quote from the late general: "Courage is fear holding on a minute longer."

"I think the military was just meant to be," said Walsh, whose sons Daniel and David are also members of the armed forces.

Walsh said Benjamin Sebban was forever dedicated to the military.

"He just loved his job," said Walsh. "He loved his men. . . . When he was leaving, he said his men were "like my children.' "

Benjamin Sebban joined the Army in 1998, the same year he graduated from Word of Life Bible College in Schroon Lake, N.Y. He was assigned to the well-known 82nd Airborne Division in January 2006.

Family members, who produced a packet of touching letters from those close to Benjamin Sebban, said they are still struggling to come to grips with the death of "a real hero."

"I can't believe he's not coming home," his mother said.

From the Tribune