Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brian Ritzberg remembered

Family members of a 24-year-old Long Island City soldier killed during an explosion in Iraq last week described him as a kind, sensitive young man with a love for computers and a dream to become a police officer.

Spc. Brian Ritzberg, who grew up in Long Island City and graduated from Jamaica's Thomas A. Edison VOC Tech High School in 2000, died on April 2 after an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit in Kirkuk, Iraq, the Defense Department said.

Ritzberg, who was assigned to the 977th Military Police Company and was part of the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kan., lived with his wife, Clara, who is also an army specialist stationed in Kansas, at Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City.

Jean Ritzberg, Brian's grandmother, said her grandson recently celebrated his second wedding anniversary and would have marked his 25th birthday in mid-April.

"Brian was a very sweet, spirited young man," she said. "He had a good heart and was good to people. This is a tremendous loss to our family. We still can't believe it. We won't believe it until we see his body."

She said her grandson had a great knowledge of computers, was popular and had numerous medals from running track in high school. He attended Queens Community College and has three half brothers.

Brian Ritzberg Sr. said his son had been in the Army for two years but eventually wanted to become a police officer. He said he recently sent his son a watch because he would lose track of time in Iraq.

"He was a nice, sensitive person," he said. "He was my only child."

Jean Ritzberg said there will be two funerals for her grandson, including one in Queens and a military service in Virginia, where he will be buried. Dates for the funerals have not yet been scheduled, she said.

"This war is so terrible," she said. "It is killing off all our young men and women. Brian had such a great future ahead of him and now look where he is."

She said she has received a lot of support from family members and her grandson's friends and plans to make contact in the future with the families of other soldiers killed in the war.

"We've had so many calls," she said. "People have been so nice. I'm going to reach out to other families. This will now be a focus in my life."

On his MySpace page, where he called himself "Soldier X," Ritzberg wrote: "To me, family is the most important thing life has to offer. When the world turns its back on you, they will always be there."

A number of people posted condolences on Ritzberg's MySpace page, writing "Brian, you will never be forgotten" and "Brian, I'm sorry, life is too short."

In a statement, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said she extended sympathy and prayers to the Ritzberg family.

"He now joins the ranks of our nation's honored war dead and leaves us with a debt that we can never repay," Marshall said.

Ritzberg is the 18th Queens resident to be killed in the war since it began in March 2003.

"My heart is broken," Jean Ritzberg said. "My future is gone. There is such a void in my life. This is something I will never get over."

From the Times Ledger

Related Link:
Brian A. Ritzberg dies of injuries from I.E.D.