Monday, July 09, 2007

Keith Kline remembered

Sgt. Keith Kline has celebrated his final Independence Day.

The 24-year-old graduate of Oak Harbor High School reportedly died Thursday morning in Iraq. He had been serving in the U.S. Army.

"When I talked to him about a week and a half, two weeks ago, he was looking forward to the Fourth of July. Even if you're in Iraq, you still look forward to holidays even though you're not going to have a day off. It just means that someone else, somewhere around the world is enjoying their time," said his friend, Sgt. Joe Bergman, also of Oak Harbor. Bergman has served two tours of duty for the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"If you look at his MySpace page, his last log-in was July Fourth. I'm sure they had some kind of company barbecue or something, at least," Bergman said.

"Keith and I grew up together, we wrestled together, played football together, graduated 2002 in Oak Harbor. I enlisted in July of 2002, Keith followed in August 2002," Bergman said.

He said Kline was a signal systems support specialist who had worked with special operations troops in Africa.

"He's very skilled in maintaining communication gear. That's a vital part when you're on the battlefield, and I have no doubt that he did a very good job at that."

He said he remembered his friend as an outgoing, determined individual with whom he enjoyed sharing war stories.

"We saw each other here and there in between deployments, and then last year he re-enlisted and re-upped for six more years," Bergman said. He said Kline had told him he enjoyed atmosphere, discipline and training he received in the Army.

"It doesn't matter what it was, he was all go and there's no doubt that he did everything to the fullest of his ability," said Kline's friend. "When you were having a bad day or thought that you were down and out, he always found a way to make you smile and make you laugh ... I'm going to miss that kid. I'm going to miss him a lot."

Mark Lipstraw of Oak Harbor said the family was notified of Kline's death Thursday night.

"As far as I know, he was going into Baghdad, or coming out, and he got killed by a roadside bomb," he said. He said his brother Alan, along with Keith's mother Betsy Kline, raised Keith.

Lipstraw confirmed Kline was part of the 82nd Airborne Unit based in Fort Bragg, N.C. He said personnel from the Army were with Keith's family Friday afternoon. A spokesman for the Department of Defense declined to confirm Kline's death Friday evening, directing inquiries to a Defense Department Web site. He said military casualties are listed on the site 24 hours after family members have been notified.

Lipstraw said Keith had enjoyed being in the Army, and had been in Iraq for "three months only, three months too long."

The family learned about the death Thursday evening.

"I think they're in shock right now. I don't think reality hit," Lipstraw said. "I found out about it last night. It probably won't hit until they bring him back, that's probably when it will hit. You see that on the news about other kids, and you think it's a shame, until it hits home and it's a lot different," he said.

Lipstraw said the family expects Keith's remains to come home in seven to 10 days.

Keith was a member of an accomplished wrestling team, according to Bergman's uncle and Oak Harbor High School wrestling coach George Bergman. He said in 2002, Keith was an SBC champion, and the team took sixth place in the state tournament.

"Keith had a vibrant personality. I didn't meet anybody that didn't like Keith Kline," he said. The wrestler was "full of energy, full of life, a very hard worker. He was the catalyst for our team," the coach said.

He said one of his best memories of Keith was during a wrestling match when Keith was losing 10-2. "Keith came back and beat the guy ... he never quit. That was the kinds of kid Keith was."

Bergman said the loss has hit him hard. "I consider him a family member, being part of our wrestling team," he said. "It's just a tragedy."

From the Telegraph Forum

Related Link:
Keith Kline reported killed in Iraq