Friday, July 20, 2007

Robbie Varga remembered

MONROE CITY, Mo. — Ceil Varga was proud that her son, Army Spec. Robert Daniel Varga, and her two sons-in-law chose careers in the military.

Robbie's father, Frank Varga, served in Vietnam, and his grandfather, also named Frank Varga, served in the South Pacific during World War II.

She tearfully admits she tried to talk Robbie and sons-in-law Timothy Reimann and David Poelker out of enlisting in 2003, and that the past four years have been difficult as all three spent time in Iraq. Robbie recently re-enlisted and was working to become a sergeant with the military police.

"Just about the time one of them got home, another one went," she said.

Fresh tears welled as Ceil recalled how Robbie would frequently reassure his mom to "stop worrying" and that he was fine in Iraq.

"I think he fibbed," she said.

Frank and Ceil Varga were picking blackberries at nearby Mark Twain Lake Sunday when they received a call and learned their 24-year-old son had died.

Robbie Varga, a member of the 759th Military Police Battalion, 984th Military Police Company, died Sunday from injuries received during a noncombat-related incident in Baghdad. The incident is being investigated.

His body will return to Monroe City this week. He is the second man from Monroe City to die in the conflict. Capt. Joseph Benedict "Ben" Smith died Nov. 7, 2003, during hostilities near Tikrit, Iraq.

Varga was born in Denver and was adopted at age 2. He grew up in Laramie, Wyo., where his parents moved in 1981. The family moved again in 1998 to Monroe City to be closer to other relatives. Varga eventually joined the Job Corps and graduated from Excelsior Springs High School near Kansas City in 2001.

He worked at the Intermet factory here, which makes auto parts, before joining the Army. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 759th Military Police Battalion, which was based at Fort Carson, Colo. He was deployed as a cook to Iraq the first time in January 2004 and served until January 2005.

He was about halfway through his current tour of duty.

"He said (the Army) kept him motivated. He definitely believed we could make a difference over there," Ceil said. "All the boys, my boys, believed in the cause."

Reimann said the plan had been to use the military as a step toward college and maybe someday open a business. He proudly showed off the 16 "challenge coins" Robbie earned in his 4 1/2 years of service.

"Robbie was a good guy," Reimann said. "He cared more about everybody else and how everybody else was doing. He'd give the shirt off his back if he believed it would help in the slightest way.

"He was my hero."

Reimann's wife, Amanda, said her little brother's best friends were those he made in the military and his brothers-in-law. She

said Robbie loved the travel the military afforded and the camaraderie he found with his fellow MPs. That, and the steady pay, were among the reasons he re-enlisted.

"He was my best friend ... my partner in crime ... my tag-along, my shadow, and he stayed that way. He had the best laugh," Amanda said before breaking down into sobs.

Robbie had married last September. He met his wife, Ellie, while in the military. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., and will meet the family for the first time this week as they make funeral arrangements.

"I love her, because my son loved her," said a red-eyed Ceil.

As the family gathered in the kitchen of their Monroe City home, comforting each other and accepting the same from friends and neighbors, the national news played on a wall-mounted TV. Frank Varga kept the news on much of the time while Robbie was in Iraq. Ceil said she didn't watch.

"I wanted to stay informed ... hoping to catch a glimpse once in a while," he said.

Robbie was known as a prankster. Recent photos of Robbie, including some from his last leave in May, show him clowning with his nephews at her home or displaying his tattoos, most of which were derived from his own drawings. In one photo, Robbie displays opposing words "death" and "love" on his forearms, done in a highly stylized letters.

Frank grinned as he told of how Robbie asked for big plastic rats to be sent to him in Iraq. Robbie teased his fellow soldiers with them, video-taping their reaction. He also liked to play "desert ninja," dressing himself in black and using a camera strobe to wake them up.

"He was always doing something to get people to smile, to get a laugh," said Amanda. "He could light up a room. He made everybody feel better."

Family members wanted the media to let everyone know that Robbie's death was not in vain and "to write to remember the boys that are still there." Asked what they wanted others outside the circle of family and friends to know about Robbie, Frank said, "Honor."

"And caring," Amanda added.

Funeral arrangements are still pending. Ceil said she would honor his wishes to be cremated.

Varga is survived by his parents, Frank and Ceil Crane Varga; paternal grandmother Marge Varga of Monroe City and maternal grandparents, Glen and Charlotte Little of Monroe City; three sisters, Pamela (David) Poelker of Mexico, Mo., and Carey Noland and Amanda (Timothy) Reimann of Monroe City; nephews Tyler and Cassius Reimann and Gage Patton Poelker, and nieces Jaicee Vigil, Stacee Varga and Pamela Noland.

He was preceded in death by grandfathers Frank Varga and Donald Lanham and his papa, Walter Maddox.

From the Quincy Herald

Related Link:
Robert D. Varga dies 'of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident'