Saturday, June 02, 2007

Army Specialist Keith V. Nepsa

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Keith V. Nepsa, 22, of New Philadelphia, Ohio

Spc. Nepsa was assigned to 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Bliss, Texas; died June 2, 2007 of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during operations near Qayyarah, Iraq. Also killed was Army Spc. Jeremiah D. Costello.

Times-Reporter -- Spc. Keith Nepsa enlisted in the Army to achieve his dream – a career in computers – and he wanted to pay for it on his own.

After serving in Iraq for three years right out of high school, the 21-year-old from New Philadelphia re-enlisted to make more money.

His three lifelong friends, Curtis Haught, 20, Casey Webber, 19, and Brandon Clow, 20, all of New Philadelphia, had their doubts about their buddy going to Iraq.

“He promised me he would be OK, so I left it at that,” Haught said Tuesday.

After hearing about Nepsa’s death Saturday as the result of an improvised explosive device, the three want to fulfill another dream of their friend – restoring the 1985 Camaro that Nepsa worked on before he went to Iraq but never finished. Nepsa and his friends often would spend time working on it.

“He tried to get this car together before he went (to Iraq),” said Webber. “He wanted to drive it down the road before he left so we’re going to get it ready and drive it down the road for him.”

“Hopefully, he’ll be there to help us,” said Haught.

The friends are looking for donations to help fix up Nepsa’s Camaro. Those wanting to help can contact Linn-Hert-Geib Funeral Home in New Philadelphia where Nepsa’s funeral arrangements are expected to be announced by the end of the week.

In honor of Nepsa, Haught got a tattoo on his forearm Monday. It’s a black cross that reads “RIP Keith” with Nepsa’s birthdate, Sept. 2, 1985, and the date of his death, June 2, 2007.

The three spoke candidly about Nepsa – a 6-foot-1, 140-pound “skinny kid” who was known for changing his hair – at one point dying it blue and another time putting braids in it. The three reminisced about their good friend while looking through old middle school and high school yearbooks.

Webber said Nepsa had tons of energy, so much so that he could barely sit still to watch a movie. Clow said his favorite memory of Nepsa was the time he watched him eat so much raw cookie dough that it made him sick.

Haught said Nepsa was like a brother to him. The two met when they were 8 years old and Haught’s mom gave Nepsa a ride to their house after a rainy baseball game.

“And he never left,” said Haught.

Clow said he remembers when Nepsa got in trouble at school for dying his hair blue. Clow said that instance just represented the kind of person Nepsa was – fun to be around and outgoing.

“The one thing I’m going to miss about him is his laugh,” said Webber. “He could be in a crowd of 1,000 people, and you could tell him apart by his laugh.”

Webber said for now, he’ll carry a photo of Nepsa in his wallet.

“My biggest fear was that he wasn’t going to come home,” said Webber. “I prayed every day that he would come home safely.”

The Department of Defense officially identified Nepsa as a casualty Tuesday. According to a press release, Nepsa and Spc. Jeremiah D. Costello, 22, of Carlinville, Ill., died Saturday near Qayyarah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near their vehicle. The two were assigned to the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss, Texas.

According to a family spokesperson, Costello and Nepsa were close friends.

Army Specialist Keith V. Nepsa was killed in action on 6/2/07.

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