Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nathan C. Hubbard dies 'of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed'

NATHAN and Jason Hubbard decided to enlist in the US army two years ago to honour their brother Jared, a marine who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Both were heading back to their California home yesterday, one in a coffin and the other to comfort his parents on the loss of a second son to the ravages of war.

It is a tragedy with striking echoes of the film Saving Private Ryan, which tells the story of an American family torn apart by the deaths of brothers serving in the military.

Nathan Hubbard, 21, was one of 14 soldiers killed when an army Black Hawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq on Wednesday because of a suspected mechanical failure.

Family friends said that the surviving brother Jason, 33, a former police officer, was granted compassionate leave to be with his family and take time to decide whether to rejoin the four-year-old conflict.

Under the US military's "sole survivor" policy, forged after at least two similar incidents during the Second World War, members of America's armed forces can be excused from further combat duty if they have already lost family members in service.

"You have to believe in some kind of faith and there is a reason for this," said Keith Butterfield, a close friend of the Hubbards in the California town of Clovis. His son Tony was killed by enemy action in Iraq a year ago.

"They were concerned but they knew both boys had a drive and need to go in. There is nothing anyone can say to make it better, but it's good to know that there are other families that can help you cope."

A spokeswoman for the Clovis Police Department - from which Jeff Hubbard, the boys' father, recently retired after 30 years' service - said the parents had taken the loss of their second son "very, very badly".

Jared Hubbard was 22 when he died alongside childhood friend Jeremiah Baro in a roadside attack on their vehicle in November 2004.

His brothers signed up a year later with Nathan telling his local newspaper, the Fresno Bee: "People are going to be hurt and people are going to be killed. That is a reality you have to accept but not dwell on."

An American flag at the family home was flying at half-mast last night.

The Hubbards' tragedy recalled the Sullivan family of Iowa, who during the Second World War lost all five of their sons in a single incident at sea.

From the Scottsman