Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Zach Clouser remembered

Deb Etheridge cried earlier this year when she happened on a photograph at the farmers' market in Thomasville of a soldier who had died in Iraq.

Stephanie Wright, who had posted the photo at her stall, said she was taken aback. The HelpAmerica Foundation employee said she was selling the tea-light memorial lanterns to earn money for the funeral of the dead soldier. Etheridge explained her son, Zachary Clouser, was in the same unit as the man in the photo.

They became friends, and Etheridge started helping the foundation, which raises money for homeless veterans and the families of soldiers killed in battle, Wright said Monday.

With excitement in her voice, Etheridge called Wright on Saturday, July 14. Clouser had phoned to say he would be home in six weeks, Wright said.

She next heard from Etheridge on Wednesday, July 18.

Zach was dead.

According to the Department of Defense, Spc. Zachary R. Clouser was one of four soldiers who died July 18 in Adhamiyah, Iraq, when their vehicle hit a land mine in the middle of small arms fire.

The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division of Schweinfurt, Germany.

Wright, who is the spokeswoman for Clouser's family, talked about the soldier's comments on MySpace, which his mother has since closed to the public.

He wrote he liked to work on cars and to ride fast, Wright said. She read a quote of his, "If you see me going slow, take another look. It's not me."

He wrote about being proud of his life, how hard it was being away from his family and his impatience to get home to his parents and five siblings.

Etheridge struggles in the mornings, Wright said, when she wakes up and realizes Zach is really gone.

His body is in the military mortuary of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and will be transported to York County, Wright said.

Etheridge has made some decisions and delayed others. Her son will be cremated, and she will keep his remains with her at home, Wright said.

She has been waiting for her daughter to give birth shortly to a grandson, Wright said.

Wright said Etheridge told her she had to give her daughter the attention she needs and would deal with funeral arrangements after the baby arrives.

Etheridge wanted her son's life to have a purpose, Wright said, and asked that people remember him with a donation to the HelpAmerica Foundation instead of flowers.

From the York Daily Record

Related Link:
Zachary Clouser reported killed in Iraq