Saturday, March 24, 2007

Forrest J. Waterbury killed by small arms fire

RICHMOND — A little more than three weeks ago U.S. Army Spc. Forrest Waterbury returned to Iraq for his third deployment.

His father, Richmond Assistant Police Chief Steve Waterbury, said he and other family members had ominous thoughts about the young man's upcoming tour of duty.

"Everyone of us, my son, my wife and me, separately without ever talking about it, all had very bad feelings about this deployment," Waterbury said Thursday. "I just felt like he is not coming home this time."

Those fears turned real when Waterbury learned Wednesday evening that his son, a crewman on an M1A1 Abrams tank, had been killed in battle in Iraq.

Waterbury said he was always aware of the danger his 25-year-old son faced. But the reality of the death is still hard to comprehend.

"It's like you are still waiting for that phone call for somebody to say, 'Wait a minute, we made a mistake,' " he said.

Forrest John Waterbury was a graduate of Terry High School in Rosenberg. His father said the young man wandered around for a while after high school.

"He did different jobs," Waterbury said. "He worked at the movie theater in Sugar Land for a long time and just couldn't find exactly what he wanted to do. He talked to some people about the military and decided to give it a try."

The young man, who joined up at 19, thoroughly enjoyed Army life, his father said. He did two tours of duty in Iraq and was married in April and has a stepchild. Waterbury's unit, based in Fort Stewart, Ga., left for Iraq in mid-February.

"He did not like Iraq," Waterbury said. "I don't know anybody that has. But he liked the Army."

Waterbury said his son planned to stay in the service for 20 years and then retire.

"He would have been 39 and still young enough for another career and have that pension and benefits," he said.

Waterbury said he had been home from work for about 20 minutes when there was a knock on the door Wednesday. Two soldiers stood outside.

"I knew exactly what had happened," he said.

The details of his son's death were sketchy, but Waterbury said he did get some basic information.

Waterbury said his son's unit was involved in a battle Tuesday night.

"Apparently he came up out of the tank," Waterbury said. "I don't know what they were doing, and he took small-arms fire to the head."

Family members say they appreciate the support they have received from friends and the community.

"I've had officers who worked for me years ago calling the police department asking for my number," Waterbury said. "I have received numerous e-mails."

Waterbury said messages were found on his son's My- Space account Thursday.

"He has 50 or 60 messages," Waterbury said. "Some from people he doesn't even know. It's amazing."

From the Chronicle