Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Keith Nurnberg remembered

Keith Nurnberg, from a family with a long history of military service, was proud to re-enlist in the Army after serving his first tour in Iraq.

Recently, however, the 1999 McHenry West graduate’s family noticed his demeanor had changed in telephone conversations and messages during his second tour of duty.

“All he said was how he wanted to come home and see his baby,” said his sister, Kimmy. “He said things were different there than his first time around.”

The 26-year-old Army specialist died Wednesday after the Humvee he was riding in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

At the Nurnberg family home in McHenry on Friday, reminders of Keith were abundant.

Two of Keith’s three sisters, Kimmy Nurnberg and Christy Hamman, looked through pictures of their brother among hundreds of family photos in albums.

Flowers from well-wishers sat nearby above the TV. Around the corner, a green camouflage jacket and hat rested at the bottom of the stairway railing. Keith had given the jacket and hat to his sister, Christy, as a gift, in case something happened while he was in Iraq.

Nurnberg had left for Iraq shortly after marrying Tonya (Hopkins) Nurnberg, of Round Lake, in December. Their courtship was quick, but the couple had known each other for 10 years before dating.

Tonya is expecting to give birth to a boy in November. Tonya plans to name the baby after his father, said Nurnberg’s mother, Barb.

A nurse at Northern Illinois Medical Center, Barb Nurnberg said her 30 years of nursing experience could not have prepared her for how to cope with the death of her only son.

“Every day, you think that you’ll get a little better,” she said. “But it has been getting worse.”

Nurnberg’s grandfathers both served in World War II and his father, Al, is a veteran of Vietnam. One of his great-grandfathers served in World War I.

When Keith joined the Army at the age of 22, his father was against him entering the military, his sister, Kimmy, said. His mother said she too initially discouraged Keith from joining the Army, but soon realized being a soldier was something he wanted to do.

“He was very proud of what he was doing over there [in Iraq],” Barb Nurnberg said. “He was proud to be a soldier.”

Keith was a tank gunner in the Army, but because of the narrow streets in Iraq, he had been gunning on Humvees, Kimmy Nurnberg said.

The family doesn’t have many details regarding Keith’s death. The military hasn’t told them whether any other soldiers were killed or injured in the attack, Barb Nurnberg said.

Nurnberg was a soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, which is based out of Fort Benning, Ga.

He lived in McHenry until about nine months ago when he and Tonya moved to Genoa City, Wis. He was a 1999 graduate of McHenry West High School, where he ran track.

“He was a hard worker,” said Bob Ludwigsen, Nurnberg’s track coach. “He set his sights pretty high and worked hard to achieve them.”

A Bears fan who enjoyed fishing and the outdoors, Keith had a good sense of humor and a light-hearted personality, said Matt Schwabb, a friend who attended high school with him.

The McHenry Municipal Center is flying its flags at half-staff in honor of Nurnberg, City Administrator Doug Maxeiner said Friday.

Nurnberg is the second soldier from McHenry killed while serving in Iraq. Army Spc. Collier Barcus was killed July 8, 2004. He was 21.

Nurnberg is the third soldier from McHenry County to die in Iraq. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan W. Collins of Crystal Lake was killed while serving in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, on Aug. 8, 2004. He was 19.

Funeral arrangements for Nurnberg are pending. Barb Nurnberg said she was unsure when her son’s body would arrive in the United States. He would have turned 27 on Sept. 23.

The grieving mother said she could not imagine what life would be like without her son.

“I’ll miss everything about him,” she said. “He was such a good, good person. He loved his wife and he was looking forward to the baby.”

From the Northwest Herald

Related Link:
Keith A. Nurnberg dies 'of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations'