Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Christopher R. Webb dies of injuries from I.E.D.

When both of his grandsons left to fight in Iraq in October, 71-year-old Lawrence Hoffmann of Hemet had a gut feeling one of the U.S. Army soldiers wouldn't make it back alive.

On March 7, Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Webb was killed along with two others soldiers in Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle during combat operations. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, home-based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Webb, 28, a former West Valley High School student who grew up in Hemet and Winchester, left a wife and infant daughter among his survivors.

"He was an easygoing kid -- never any trouble," his grandfather said. "He was a God-loving young man."

Hoffmann said Webb went into the Army in search of a steady job.

"We weren't real close in recent years, but he'd come by the house sometimes," Hoffmann said. "He liked the outdoors and enjoyed camping and stuff like that. He'd go up to Joshua Tree Monument. I took him on a trip with me to San Luis on the Amtrak when he was 12, and he really liked that.

"He was just an all-American boy. I'm not handling this too good right now."

Webb's brother, Coy Bullock, had just finished chatting on the Internet with Webb minutes before he was killed, Hoffmann said, crying into the phone.

Webb's mother, Teresa Bullock, of Lake Elsinore, said her son loved the Army. She remembered watching him don Army attire as a child and play soldier with his fiends.

"He comes from a background of military. He was 11 months old when I went into the Army. I was in for a couple of years," she said. "His stepfather was also in the Army, and his grandfather was in the Marines. His other grandfather on his stepfather's side was in the Marines, too."

In October 1996, Webb left West Valley High School as a senior to attend Alessandro High, a continuation school, but did not complete the program. After enlisting in the Army National Guard, he earned his GED and transferred into the regular Army.

Bullock said that being a former soldier herself, she always understood the danger her sons faced.

"But we've tried to keep things positive and say we'd get through whatever we need to get through with the love and help of our friends and family," she said. "With our belief in and support of a higher power, we are getting through this."

Funeral arrangements are pending. Bullock said her son will be buried in Alturas, a town about 180 miles north of Reno, where his wife and infant daughter live. A memorial service will be held later for family and friends in the Hemet area.

"You have no idea how many hearts this man reached," Bullock said. "I've talked to so many people I didn't know he knew and people I hadn't heard from in 15 or 16 years."

Bullock said the rest of the family is holding up under the circumstances. She and her daughter flew to Alturas to be with Webb's wife, Shalan, and 6-month-old child, Mary. Her other son and husband were driving up.

"I told Chris' wife this morning that I finally felt at peace," Bullock said. "I had the best night's sleep since this whole thing started, because I knew Chris would want us all to be together and still does."

Bullock said her younger son, Coy, 20, a specialist, joined the Army two years ago. Both sons deployed to Iraq together in October, each on a one-year tour.

"They put everything in process for Coy to come home as soon as possible on emergency leave, and he got home Friday night," she said. "We don't know yet if he has to go back."

Bullock said her older son loved and was devoted to his wife of 5½ years and their daughter. His baby was almost two months old when he went overseas.

Larry Stroud, commander of Hemet's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12023, said the post will change its name to honor fallen soldiers from the community, particularly those from Hemet High School. The post will be renamed the Hemet High Veterans Memorial Post.

A Hemet High School assembly will take place May 25 to commemorate the change, Stroud said.

"This community has paid a heavy price in this war," said Stroud, who served in Vietnam. "We want to make sure the community and the high school never forget it."

From the Enterprise