Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Brian A. Ritzberg dies of injuries from I.E.D.

A U.S. soldier killed Monday in a bomb blast in Iraq was identified Tuesday as being a young husband from Queens who once wrote on his Web site that family was the "most important thing life has to offer."

Spc. Brian Ritzberg, 24, who was assigned to the Army's 977th Military Police Company, died from wounds suffered when "an improvised explosive device" detonated in the disputed city of Kirkuk, officials said. He would have turned 25 next week.

Although the circumstances of Ritzberg's death were unclear Tuesday, the Defense Department had reported the death of a U.S. soldier in a suicide truck bomb blast Monday near a police station in Kirkuk.

Ritzberg's father, Brian Sr., gave a similar account of his son's death, saying a truck approached his unit and exploded, sending a piece of shrapnel flying that mortally wounded Ritzberg.

Ritzberg, who lived in a Long Island City apartment with his wife, Clara, was part of the 1st Infantry Division stationed in Fort Riley, Kan.

Under the name "Soldier X," Ritzberg posted several photos of his Army experiences in Iraq on his personal Web page. One showed him dressed in his desert fatigues, kissing his wife.

"To me family is the most important thing life has to offer," he wrote in a message on his page. "When the world turns its back on you they will always be there."

Words of condolence flooded his wife's MySpace page Tuesday.

Ritzberg graduated in 2000 from Thomas A. Edison VOC Tech High School in Jamaica, where he majored in computer repair and electronics, he wrote on his Web page.

Ritzberg's father said his son was a track star in high school, and a very popular young man who was considering becoming a police officer.

Ritzberg, who had two half brothers, looked forward to starting a family of his own when he returned home from the war, his father said. He regularly called his dad, who recently sent him a watch because his son never seemed to know what time it was.

Ritzberg Sr. said his daughter-in-law was devastated by news of her husband's death and "in no mood to talk."

"He had his whole life ahead of him," his father said. "Everyone is hurt real bad. The family is hurt real bad."