Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Anthony Schober laid to rest

There was a moment at the end of Sgt. Anthony J. Schober's burial service Thursday in Santa Rosa when his two lives -- two families, really -- intersected amid talk of his love for junk food and video games.

There was his sister -- one of two -- Rebecca Schober, 20, clutching the framed photo of her slain brother that she held tightly throughout the service, her face full of tears and anguish even as she recalled her big brother's unhealthy appetite for Hostess Ho Hos and Dr Pepper.

But talk of his favorite menu for a session of video games caught the ear of several Army buddies who drew near, smiling and laughing about the "Schobe" they knew in Iraq during the first two of what would be three tours of duty there before his death May 12.

"We'd come back from patrol -- 12, 18 hours on patrol -- and we didn't want to sleep, and we'd hook together four Xboxes and we'd play Halo for three or four hours," said Staff Sgt. Jamie McCarrick, who still serves in the 10th Mountain Division's Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

"That was Anthony," Schober's father, Ed Schober, said with a smile as he stood above his daughter, trying to comfort her with a shoulder rub. "That was Anthony."

Schober's youngest sister, Jessica Schober, 19, cradled her tiny infant, Konner, and fretted that her brother would never know her son.

"He was just a great guy," she said, "and I love him so much. And I just wish he could have met his nephew."

The 23-year-old soldier was on patrol two weeks ago with six of his men and an Iraqi translator when they were attacked south of Baghdad. Schober, who spent part of his childhood in Rohnert Park, was among four soldiers killed at the scene, although his body was so badly burned he was not identified until four days later.

He initially was thought to be among three other soldiers taken prisoner. The body of one of those was identified Wednesday but as many as 6,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers continue to search for the others.

Schober, who lived in the Reno area where much of his family resides, asked in his will to have his body sent back to Sonoma County. His maternal grandfather, Robert Asper of Rohnert Park, said that was because "this was where he was raised."

He also lived in Clearlake for a time, family members said.

He is the ninth soldier with North Coast roots to die in the war that began four years ago.

Ed Schober told the media last week that his son left school to join the Army at age 17, motivated by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was scheduled to leave Iraq in October with hopes of an assignment in Italy and was considering a career with the Army, family members said.

Even on leave he would talk of needing to get back to Iraq "to look after my men," his grandfather said earlier this week.

Schober's commitment to his fellow soldiers and to his country was recognized Thursday in the military trappings of his services at Calvary Catholic Cemetery -- the precision color guard, three volleys of rifle fire, a bagpiper on the hill, a bugler playing taps.

A police escort led his motorcade to the cemetery from Daniels Chapel of the Roses, where he had lain since Tuesday, past saluting firefighters and several clusters of people holding American flags. On the cemetery grounds, about a dozen members of the Patriot Guard Riders with large flags lined the lane to the chapel.

The Rev. Gerard Fahey of St. Eugene's Catholic Church, one of two clergy members to officiate at Schober's services, acknowledged the upcoming holiday honoring Americans "who have given their life in war that we might live in peace."

More than 100 people -- about half standing in the jammed chapel -- attended the service signaled by a tolling bell as family members from Novato and Clearlake joined with loved ones from as far away as Indiana to mourn Schober on the hillside above Santa Rosa, where he'll rest next to Army Cpl. Joshua J. Kynoch, who was killed in 2005 in Iraq.

At Schober's graveside, his mother, Roberta Schober of Carson City, Nev., clasped hands across her mother's lap with Schober's biological father, Mark Webb of Indianapolis. Webb in turn held tightly to the hand of the soldier's adoptive father, Ed Schober, also of Carson City.

Army representatives bestowed upon them the final artifacts of Schober's life, gifts and burdens symbolizing his service to country and the manner of his death: A Purple Heart; a Bronze Star; four triangular wooden boxes containing folded U.S. flags, including the one that draped his coffin; and for Rebecca Schober, a copy of her brother's dog tags, which were stolen in the ambush.

"This was all I wanted," she said.

Schober's parents grimaced as the rifle fire sounded, wept as their son's casket was lowered into the ground and left white roses, one at a time, as they said goodbye -- Webb blowing a kiss into the grave.

Later, Rebecca Schober sat nearby still clutching the photos of her brother -- a large framed one of him standing in a red T-shirt, arms crossed and a smirk on his face in what she said was a familiar pose, with several smaller snapshots of the two as children tucked into the crevice around the edge.

Webb walked over and kissed the photo, then held his son's sister by the shoulders and made her promise.

"Don't let it tear you apart," Webb said. "Anthony doesn't want you to be that way. Be proud. I am."

In addition to his parents and sisters, Schober is survived by grandparents Leona and Robert Asper of Rohnert Park, and Bill and Arlene Schober of Novato.

From the Press Democrat

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