Sunday, June 10, 2007

William N. Newman dies 'wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

A second airman based at Hickam Air Force Base has been killed in Iraq.

Senior Airman William N. Newman died Thursday south of Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device, according to the Pentagon. He was 23.

A former member of Newman's team at Hickam said Newman was a man who always tried to make the right choice, and always gave his all for his job, his country and his wife.

The introduction on his online MySpace profile is straight-faced and simple.

"My name is Will," he wrote. "I serve my God, my country and my family."

"Will" is William N. Newman, 23. He is the latest Hawaii-based casualty of the war in Iraq.

The Utah-born senior airman, whose family now lives in Kingston Springs, Tenn., died Thursday south of Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device, according to the Pentagon.

He was assigned to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team of the 15th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hickam Air Force Base. It was a job he gave his all to, said friend Eric Benbrooks.

Benbrooks worked with Newman while he was assigned to the EOD team in Hawaii for three years. Benbrooks was reassigned to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana last November.

"He was always asking questions, wanting to learn more about the job," Benbrooks said. "He tried to put as much of himself into the job as he could, giving his all every day."

Newman had many interests, including break dancing, ultimate Frisbee, working out and his Christian faith. But of all his interests, he loved nothing more than his wife, Soyong, Benbrooks said.

"He probably has the best wife. She's sweet and I feel so bad for her," Benbrooks said. "That's one thing -- he always cared about Soyong more than anything else."

Benbrooks said he heard about his friend's death through the grapevine, when other former members of the EOD team contacted each other.

"A few of us haven't spoken to each other since we left Hickam," he said. "Now we're having hourlong conversations on how it used to be and the good times we had. We're closer than ever."

Benbrooks said it was easy to think of Newman as a brother, given the close-knit working atmosphere of the military.

"It was a very tight shop, and when I left, it was the closest the shop had ever been," Benbrooks said. "When we lose one, it's really like losing family. He was like a brother to me."

Newman is the second Hickam airman to die in Iraq. Airman 1st Class Carl Jerome Ware Jr. was killed July 1 last year at Camp Bucca in Iraq. Another Hickam-based airman, Kyle Dalton, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for shooting Ware in the chest. As part of a plea agreement, Dalton faces 12 years in prison.

In her MySpace blog, Newman's sister, Emily Swaggerty, described the devastation her family is going through. But she said her brother was doing something he was proud to do.

"He died as noble a death I think that he wanted to," she wrote. "And he was so proud to be doing what he was doing. And I am proud of him. I just wish that he wouldn't have died doing it."

She said what really hurts the most is that Newman had been scheduled to leave Iraq in less than a week.

"It doesn't seem real yet," she wrote.

From the Star Bulletin