Monday, July 05, 2010

Army Pfc. Edwin C. Wood

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Edwin C. Wood, 18, of Omaha, Neb.

Pfc. Wood was assigned to 1st Squadron, 71st Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.; died July 5, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed in the attack was Staff Sgt. Christopher F. Cabacoy.

North grad killed in Afghanistan ---

On the ground in Afghanistan barely more than a month, Edwin “Eddie'' Wood already had survived one bomb attack.

Back out on patrol Monday as a scout with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, insurgent bombers struck again. This time, the blast claimed the life of Pfc. Wood, an 18-year-old graduate of Omaha North High School.

“He did his duty, like he was supposed to,'' said his father, Tom Wood of Omaha. “He never told me exactly what happened (the first time). Soldiers don't talk about that stuff.”

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that Wood was among two soldiers killed by an improvised explosive in Kandahar. The bomb wounded three other soldiers.

Pfc. Wood's awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

Wood’s death reflects the recent surge in U.S. casualties as troops have pushed into Taliban-dominated areas in the southern part of the country. He is the fourth soldier from Nebraska or western Iowa to die in Iraq or Afghanistan in the last month.

He also is the first Omaha soldier to die in the nine-year-old Afghanistan conflict and the first from the city to die in either Iraq or Afghanistan in nearly three years.

Wood, a month shy of his 19th birthday, had been in the Army less than a year. But he’d been dressing in uniform almost from the time he could walk.

His father is active as an early American soldier re-enactor, and from an early age Eddie joined in, too. As a young boy, he would wear a three-corner hat over his red hair and carry a water bucket behind the cannon as other re-enactors walked in parades. In more recent years, he had his own period infantry uniform, muzzle loader and saber.

Wood was active in the Boy Scouts and was in Junior ROTC all four years at North, becoming a leader in the group. He also was active in drama at North, a shy kid who worked hard behind the scenes building sets and operating lights and sound.

At North, he was remembered as a conscientious student, dependable and well-liked. “He was an excellent kid, a real nice kid,’’ said Jeffrey Edie, a Junior ROTC instructor at the school.

Gene R. Haynes, principal at Omaha North High School, said Pfc. Wood was known for his dedication to service.

"If he was given a task, he would carry it out to a T," he said of Pfc. Wood, who was involved in Reserve Officer Training Corps, a high school class taught by Army instructors, and the drama club.

"He loved him some drama," Mr. Haynes said.

During summers, Pvt. Wood worked as a counselor at Camp Pokamoke, a horse camp for children. That's where he met Miranda S. Danigole, 15. Pfc. Wood was charismatic and lit up the room whenever he walked in, she said. One time, he got his truck stuck in a ditch and members of the camp had to help him out.

Just two weeks ago, she saw him on leave back home from Afghanistan.

"He was really excited to go back," she said. The soldier's Facebook status on July 1 read: "I am back to the land in the sand." Ms. Danigole said she is praying for his family and plans to visit his parents.

Wood graduated from North a year ago, unsure of whether he wanted to make the Army a career, but he enlisted and was off to boot camp in October. He was assigned to a combat team with the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry unit stationed in Fort Drum, N.Y.

He was first sent to Afghanistan in May, when he had his first brush with a bomb.

Wood originally intended to be home on leave for his favorite holiday, the Fourth of July, though he had barely begun his year-long overseas tour.

As it turned out, his leave got moved up — to June 11 — and he spent two weeks in Omaha with his family.

“We were all here for him, and he was happy as could be,’’ said his mother, Janis Boehmer of Omaha.

"My Son gave his live (sic) for our freedom and the for the freedom of the people of Afghanistan," Jan Boehmer wrote on her Facebook page on Monday. "He chose his job, he did it without question. I love him and will always, always be so very very proud of my fallen soldier."

Boehmer told Omaha television station KETV that he'd been home on leave about a week ago and had just returned to duty, promoted to truck driver.

Eddie Wood called home Sunday, but Boehmer said she missed talking to him. She has the message he left on her voice mail: "Hey Mom, just letting you know that I'm doing OK, and just wanted to let you know we had a little awards ceremony the other day. Talk to you later when I get my phone. ... Love you guys. Bye."

He returned to Afghanistan June 29 and soon was back on patrol. His family was celebrating the July 4 weekend without him Monday when they received word he had been killed.

Wood, better known as Freckles, worked at YMCA Camp Pokamoke in Crescent, Iowa, as a junior counselor. He was remembered as a role model and known for his giving personality. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the camp flew its flag at half-staff in his honor.

"He was the only person I knew who had a big heart and cared about everyone," said Courtney Janz, a fellow junior counselor.

Wood wrote Janz letters while was still stationed in the United States. While he was home in June, Wood told Janz about his near-death experiences in Afghanistan and said he was having memory loss issues.

"He wouldn't get checked out because he feared not being able to go back to the Army. He was so dedicated," Janz said.

"Going into the army was his dream," said Blake Johnson, 19, a Camp Pokamoke friend and Marine. "I hope he watches over me when I deploy in February."

His father was at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Wednesday afternoon to watch as Wood’s flag-draped casket arrived from Afghanistan. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Besides his parents, Eddie Wood was survived by brother Thomas Jr., 15, and sister, Isabeau Tholen, 11.

Army Pfc. Edwin C. Wood was killed in action on 7/5/10.

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