Friday, July 20, 2007

Zachary Clouser reported killed in Iraq

Nineteen-year-old Zachary Clouser of Dover Township died this week while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

The Department of Defense will not release any details until 24 hours pass after notifying family members and the death has been posted to the DOD Web site, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

Clouser graduated from Dover Area High School in 2005 and soon after joined the U.S. Army. He left for the war in the Army infantry in August 2006 on his 19th birthday.

He is the 18th person with connections to the York and Adams counties area to be killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

High school principal Joel Riedel remembered Clouser as a hesitant ninth-grader.

“He wasn't very excited about high school,” Riedel said today. “He didn't know why he was here, what he would do.”

With the steady encouragement of his mother, Deb Etheridge, Clouser gradually found himself and began setting and meeting goals, Riedel said. He wanted to graduate from high school and did. He wanted to join the military and passed the necessary tests.

“Zach transitioned from 'I do not have a goal' to success in setting and meeting his goals,” Riedel said.

During a recent break from the war, Clouser and his mother visited his high school to talk with students and teachers, Riedel said. The principal said he missed them then, but later he ran into Etheridge.

“She was very excited about his medals and awards from the Army,” Riedel said. “This is a very, very sad thing. We were stunned yesterday when we got the call from the Army recruiter.”

Clouser's parents declined comment.

Brian Zarilla of Dover Township said he heard of the death of the young man he knew very well, while at work.

Clouser grew up playing football, basketball and baseball with Zarilla's children in the Tri-town Boys Club. Zarilla was his baseball coach.

“I have seen this kid grow up,” Zarilla said. “It's tough. It hurts the whole town, the whole community when it's somebody real close.”

As Clouser matured, he came to know just what he wanted to do, said Zarilla, who has been in the Air National Guard for 22 years.

“His choice was the Army,” Zarilla said. “I talked to his mom a lot. He was doing well. She was happy he was doing what he wanted to do. He did his job.”

Zarilla said the unit he is in just left for Iraq, and he expected he would have to go next year.

“Not all the military agrees with the war,” Zarilla said. “We shouldn't have our hometown kids dying.”

Clouser appeared in a February article from Baghdad, “Soldiers in Iraq view troop surge as a lost cause,” by Tom Lasseter of the McClatchy Newspapers.

Lasseter opened with 25-year-old 1st Lt. Antonio Hardy of Clouser's unit saying the folks at home have been shielded from the escalating violence in Iraq. He spoke of contending with an escalating civil war between Iraq's Sunni and Shite Muslims, as well as insurgents on both sides who target U.S. forces.

“We can go get into a firefight and empty out ammo, but it doesn't accomplish much,” said Pvt. 1st Class Zach Clouser, 19, of York, Pa. “This isn't our war - we're just in the middle.”

Riedel said the high school guidance counselor will have contract counselors available for students and faculty members as needed.

From the York Daily Record