Friday, June 29, 2007

Joshua Modgling remembered

He was an Army soldier from an Air Force family who volunteered to serve in the nation's war on terrorism because he was looking for direction in his life and wanted to save money for college.

That's how the parents of 22-year-old Pfc. Joshua S. Modgling remembered him this week. He was killed June 19 in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq.

For Keith Modgling of Henderson and Julie Montano of Mira Loma, Calif., the trip to Riverside National Cemetery in California on July 6 to bury the young soldier will bring back painful memories of when they buried his brother, Ryan, there. Ryan died of leukemia when he was 5.

Joshua Modgling will be buried next to Ryan and another of Keith Modgling's sons, Dustin, who died of a heart defect a week after he was born in 1994. That was the year after Keith Modgling had moved to Las Vegas from Hawaii after 15 years in the Air Force.

When Joshua joined the Army in 2005, his father "was very honored my son grew up, found direction and became a man," Keith Modgling said.

"He went in a pug-nosed little kid and came out a man," Montano said of her son.

"One day he knew he wanted to go in. He went to see his dad and (younger) brother (Christopher) and he joined in Las Vegas," she said.

"The one thing that he said before he left is, 'Mom, if I ever have to die, I want to die in Iraq,' " she said. "He hated the Army with a passion because there are so many rules and regulations. But he went over there for us."

Joshua Stephen Modgling was born Jan. 3, 1985, in Rapid City, S.D., not far from where his dad was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

When Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3, the family sought a transfer for his medical condition and moved to March Air Force Base near Riverside, Calif. After he died, his parents divorced.

"It tore us apart," Montano said Monday night by telephone from Mira Loma, Calif. "Keith stayed at March. I moved to Pahrump with the boys. He stayed in the military and got remarried."

During the ordeal with Ryan, Joshua spent time with his grandmother, Karen Nelson, in Pahrump.

"He kind of bounced around among everybody when we were running around with Ryan," Montano recalled.

Nelson, a retired Nye County detective, said Joshua "was an awesome kid" who participated in soccer, basketball, swimming and Little League baseball in Pahrump.

"Josh was very competitive and always hated to lose," she said. "He put everything into whatever he played."

Modgling said Joshua and Christopher spent much of their time with him in the Las Vegas Valley from the ages of 6 and 5, respectively, until their teens.

Joshua attended Manch Elementary School, four middle schools and Silverado High School.

He was a defensive lineman in Pop Warner football and set a record for most sacks, his father said.

Joshua left Silverado High in his sophomore year to live with his mother in California.

"Josh used to play a lot of basketball in the park," Montano said. "He was always for the underdog. He didn't care who, what, where. In Mira Loma, his friend was basketball."

He didn't get a high school diploma, but he passed the General Educational Development tests.

She was proud when he decided to join the Army "because he needed some direction. He took money out for a college fund, $100 a month," she said.

His desire to be a combat engineer was fitting, Montano said, because since childhood he had a fascination for blowing things up.

He would use baking soda and small explosives to blow tennis balls out of cans.

Modgling said his son realized, however, there was more to being a combat engineer than bomb duty.

"They also build roads and bridges and there are construction aspects," he said.

"He was probably the most respectful, most caring person I ever knew," the father said.

Joshua had been in Iraq since May and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

Montano said his unit was conducting missions out of Forward Operating Base Falcon to find improvised explosive devices.

He was driving an armored Buffalo mine sweeper on June 19 near Muhammad al Ali, Iraq, when the bomb exploded that killed him and 35-year-old Army Sgt. 1st Class William A. Zapfe of Muldraugh, Ky.

Nelson said the night before Modgling headed overseas, "Joshua and I had a long talk. We were all concerned about his going over. 'Grandma,' he said, 'I'm going to come home for you.'

"The only thing was, we imagined him coming home alive," she said.

From the Review Journal

Related Link:
Joshua S. Modgling dies 'of wounds sustained when an IED detonated near his vehicle'