Sunday, September 09, 2007

David J. Lane dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

David J. Lane wasn’t letting a war and 7,000 miles come between him and his plans for coming home.

Lane already had contacted friends to arrange get-togethers next year and bought a piece of property with a friend serving with him at Camp Rustamiyah, Iraq, in eastern Baghdad. They planned to open a business together when they got out of the Army.

Lane’s plans died Tuesday when a device exploded near the Humvee that he and two others were using on patrol outside Rustamiyah. All three were killed.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Humvee was hit with an explosively formed penetrator, a type of bomb that the U.S. alleges Iran has been supplying to Shiite militias. Iran denies the accusation.

Officials notified Lane’s parents, Maria and David Lane of Emporia, about 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon. A candlelight memorial will be held by family and friends at 9 p.m. Saturday at the National Guard Armory. The service is open to the public.

Friends of Lane, who was 20 years old, said the young man was looking forward to his homecoming, even though it was months away.

“I talked to him on MySpace all the time,” said one of his friends, Denisha Seiter, 20. “...And he always ended everything with ‘Peace out, E-Town.’”

Seiter and her boyfriend, Michael Watson, both communicated with Lane over the Internet. On Wednesday afternoon, Seiter had been re-reading some of the messages Lane had sent.

“I was just reading them a minute ago,” she said, “and he says on one of them that he’s still in one piece over there and he’ll be back next year for the Fourth of July and for the fair.”

Mud trucking

Lane had entered his oversized, 4x4, 1979 Chevy pickup in the truck pull at the Lyon County Free Fair for the first time in 2005 and had pulled about 79 feet, Seiter said. He was in Iraq during this year’s fair, and was eager to try it again in 2008.

“We had so much in common — music, riding four-wheelers, going muddin’ in his pickup truck,” Watson said.

Lane enjoyed muddin’ immensely, Maria Lane said, and he’d modified the Chevy to make it as tall as he could.

“The tires are bigger than the truck, I think,” she said, laughing about her son’s fascination with wheeled vehicles.

And David Lane had a studious side. He’d been home-schooled after moving to Emporia four years ago from Arizona. After receiving his high school certification, he enrolled in a mechanics course at Flint Hills Technical College before circumstances allowed him to enlist in the Army.

“He loved school. History was his favorite subject,” Maria Lane said. “The Civil War was one of his favorites. He did a lot of re-enactments before he got into the Army.”

Always and forever, though, Lane wanted to be a soldier. A hearing problem caused him to have several surgeries and about two years ago, doctors put a titanium implant in his ear that made all the difference.

“He was able to get into the Army,” Maria Lane said.

After he was deployed to Iraq, the private second class kept in touch with friends and family to let them know what his life was like in the Mideast.

“He thought the days were awfully long,” Lane said. “It was hot. He was always glad to get back to the base. He felt like what he was doing was what needed to be done. He was doing the right job. He did everything that a good soldier would do.”

David Lane told his mother about the children he’d befriended and talked about one Iraqi boy who came daily to the gate of the base to take orders for a tasty flat bread the soldiers had developed a taste for.

“If they gave him some money, he would run and get it hot, and it was so good,” she recalled her son saying.

Selfless friend

Maria Lane remembered her son as a helpful young man, loyal to friends and always willing to lend a hand.

“He’d do anything for anybody that needed it. If they called him and couldn’t get their car started, any time of the day or night, he was there,” she said.

David Lane had done just that for another friend, E-2 Pvt. Justin Brummett, who is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas’s Army base.

Brummett said he’d joined the Army after seeing how much Lane enjoyed serving. The two became friends three or four years ago, and when Brummett needed help, whether it was 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., Lane would be available.

“You couldn’t ask for a better friend,” Brummett said. “He was always there.”

Seiter talked about the close friendship that had developed in the relatively short time she had known Lane.

“He was amazing. He was a kind and gentle man. He’d give the shirt off his back for everybody, and everybody knew that,” Seiter said. “In that year, he became my best friend. He was so caring. He was always there to give you advice, to let you talk.

“He always had a shoulder for you to cry on.”

But crying wasn’t Lane’s way. Family and friends all say that laughing and making people laugh is one of the things he did best.

“He was full of life, just full of life,” Maria Lane, said. “He loved to joke and make people happy.”

David Lane’s friends agreed.

“He’s goofy and I’m goofy,” said Watson. “We hit it off pretty good. We loved to do off-the-wall crazy things.”

Watson really didn’t want his friend going to Iraq.

“I’d just tell him he’s crazy for doing it, with what’s going on right now. ‘I can’t believe you’re going, but I stand behind you 110 percent, if it’s what you want to do,’” Watson remembered saying to Lane.

Close call

Watson and Seiter recalled Lane’s last visit home on leave this spring, when seven friends got together for a farewell celebration and finished off the evening at the Golden Corral restaurant.

Lane gave Seiter a camouflage cap to keep for him until he came back for good. He was wearing it when he was shot in Iraq.

His bulletproof vest shouldn’t have withstood the round that struck him, she said, but a scar and a lump on his left rib cage showed how close the bullet came to striking his heart.

The cap, like the memories, are something she plans to keep.

“My favorite memory of him pretty much to this day is him snorting a line of ice cream,” Seiter said, laughing at the thought. “I felt sorry for the waitress that night.”

Watson had buried his face in ice cream and Lane, not to be outdone, sniffed the ice cream up his nose. He said that it burned and was cold, simultaneously, Seiter said, and it brought out gales of laughter from the group.

“He made you laugh. That’s why we called him ‘Goofy Dave,’” Seiter said, mentioning the nickname friends had affectionately given him. “He made you laugh, no matter how sad you were.”

From the Emporia Gazdette