Sunday, June 10, 2007

Robert A. Surber dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

The family of a soldier from Inverness killed Sunday in Iraq is mourning a “thoughtful, mature young man” who loved to laugh.

Army Sgt. Robert Allen Surber, 24, a member of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Stryker Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., was killed along with three others from his unit. An impro-vised explosive device (IED) struck their Humvee northwest of Baghdad.

Several family members gathered Wednesday afternoon at his mother and stepfather’s house in Inverness to recall their favorite stories and memories of him. Kerri Surber said her son was becoming a wonderful man who loved family and friends.

“I’ve always been so proud of him. He was always so smart,” Mrs. Surber said. “He wanted to come home and go to helicopter school and be a pilot.”

Mrs. Surber said her son was driving the Humvee around 6:30 a.m. when the explosion happened. According to reports, the attack happened in Al Thania, Baghdad during a cordon and search operation.

A Department of Defense spokeswoman could not comment because information had not yet been posted on the DOD’s Web site. Raymond Cubero, Surber’s stepfather, said an Army chaplain and staff sergeant from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa came to the home around 6:30 p.m. Sunday to break the news.

“His commanding officer in Iraq called me the night before last and said their Humvee was struck by an IED. Their vehicle was totally destroyed,” Mrs. Surber said. “By the time they could get to him, it was too late.”

Surber, a 2000 graduate of Citrus High School, is survived by his parents, biological fa-ther, three grandparents, three sisters, a brother, four uncles, an aunt and his girlfriend. De-pending on when Surber’s body arrives, funeral services with full military honors are tenta-tively scheduled for Monday at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Inverness.

Surber comes from a family of servicemen. His uncle, Herbert, is memorialized on a monument in front of the Old Courthouse in Inverness recognizing those with local ties killed in the Vietnam War. American Legion Post 225 in Floral City also is named after him.

Surber had been home on leave in April, Mrs. Surber said, and he was three months away from returning after his second tour in Iraq. His grandfather, Wayne Pike of Palm Coast, cursed about President Bush, adding, “May 29 would have been time to come home, but he got extended.”

Mrs. Surber said she last talked to her son May 26, when he called to get his sister Jenni-fer Surber’s phone number to wish her happy birthday. Cassie Brunk, his girlfriend, talked to him the morning of the explosion.

Mrs. Surber said the two, who met through the Internet shortly before he came home in April, were planning on getting an apartment together when he came home. She said they were becoming serious and, “They were kind of glued at the hip the whole time he was here.”

Talking about the war, Cubero said Surber didn’t like where he was, but, “He knew he had a job to do … he did it.” Pike added, “When I last talked to him, he really thought he was doing a service to the Iraqi people. He was really proud about being a soldier.”

Mrs. Surber said her son didn’t like violence and didn’t like arguing, but he would debate. “He could pick apart an argument and negate it in a minute flat,” she said.

Cubero said Surber was becoming his best friend, and would often call him for advice on repairing his truck. Cubero also remembered with a chuckle, “He had the most unique laugh,” as he tried to imitate it.

Mrs. Surber looked around the house and at a green throw rug her son sent home from Iraq. There were various things in the china cabinet he made for her.

“Everything around here reminds us of him,” she said.

In a scrapbook, a two-page passage entitled “A True Story” stuck out. It was a project Surber’s sister, Melody Cubero, prepared for her ninth-grade class at Citrus High.

In it, she asked her bother several questions while he was home on leave. Asked why he joined the Army, he replied he squandered away his high school years being social instead of studying, and did not have the means to pay for college.

However, he added, he was given the opportunity to mature and find out what he wanted in life. “…You have to be strong enough to overcome what is thrown in front of you, otherwise you’ll go through life regretting everything,” he said.

Sitting at a kitchen table, Pike said his grandson was a “very mature young man” who was very private but social. Mrs. Surber acknowledged her son quietly went about things without expecting recognition.

With everyone sitting quietly and remembering him, she said, “He would have thought all this is too much drama.” Added Jennifer Surber, “He would have told everybody to knock it off already.”

From the Citrus County Chronicle