Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Robert Surber remembered

He had a unique laugh, the kind of laugh almost impossible to imitate, but when attempted, brings smiles to those who’ve heard it before.

Jeremy Lentz has heard that laugh countless times before, and it’s the simple laugh he said he’ll always remember of his friend, Robert Surber. Lentz, 25, smiled as he revisited times growing up with Surber on Monday before a service to honor the 24-year-old Inverness soldier killed last week in Iraq.

“All of my best memories of growing up had him involved somehow,” he said.

Since the two met in the sixth grade and became friends a year later, “they were inseparable,” Lentz’s mother, Sandy Dayton, said.

It was Lentz who accompanied Surber’s body Saturday on a flight from Dover, Del., to Brooksville. In that time, Lentz tried composing his thoughts for a eulogy for his friend.

After six pages, he would later tell those gathered in the church, he gave up; there was just too much to say about the man he loved like a brother.

Lentz smiled as he talked of childhood adventures with Surber in the Boy Scouts, and other memories. Growing up, there was some typical troublemaking Lentz joked couldn’t be put in print.

There was a potato gun incident that dented Dayton’s shed, he laughed. Dayton added Surber loved that potato gun. The two would often drive Surber’s go-kart around his yard, and they would usually stay up all night talking.

As the two grew up, there would be challenges; both would go through divorces, and Lentz said his friend helped him out. “He was the only one who really knew what it was like, and the only one who really understood what was going on,” he said.

Lentz ended up joining the U.S. Coast Guard, eventually requesting that he be stationed in Seattle, Wash., so that he could be closer to Surber after he joined the Army. Lentz said Surber wasn’t just a best friend, but was like a brother, too.

Though the two didn’t see each other all the time in Washington, Lentz said he and Surber would often meet back home when they were on leave. “Those were the best leave times, when we were both here together,” he said.

On Memorial Day weekend in 2006, the two hung out and again stayed up each night talking. The two had even planned to take a backpacking trip through Europe and travel to Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Lentz said he won’t plan to travel there now. “He was the only one I wanted to go with.”

Though Surber didn’t like to argue, Lentz agreed with what his family said about him: He liked to debate. The two would debate about anything, he said, but would never get mad at each other.

“I was the only one who could keep up with him,” Lentz said.

On a poster board in the church foyer, people had scribbled in black permanent marker various thoughts and feelings about Surber. Some recalled talking with him about bands and music, while one friend recalled the two sitting together and eating ice cream.

Lentz wrote, “You’re the only man I’ll ever love. You’re my only brother through friendship.” And then he presented one last question to his friend: What should he do now?

From the Citrus County Chronicle

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