Friday, January 07, 2011

Army Pfc. Robert J. Near

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Robert J. Near, 21, of Nampa, Idaho

Pfc. Near was assigned to the 86th Signal Battalion, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; died Jan. 7, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.

Before his enlistment in the U.S. Army in 2008, Robert J. Near had moved to Nampa to train for a promising career in computer technology at Centennial Job Corps.

The 21-year-old Granger, WA.-native died in combat this past week while serving as a private first class infantryman in Afghanistan, according to relatives. Family members reached in Granger on Saturday said they do not yet know the details of his death, but Army officials have told them they are treating it as a combat-related incident.

Near, who also had Treasure Valley family in Ontario, had deployed to Afghanistan in March. As recently as several days ago, Near talked with his grandmother in Granger over the phone. Family members said he had been due to return home within the next few weeks.

Speaking on behalf of Near’s family, his uncle, Terry Near, said the family was notified of the death Thursday and an Army liaison visited them in person on Saturday.

Near's grandmother, Vera Near, said her grandson grew up in her Granger home from the age of 2. She declined to talk further Monday afternoon.

“He was a very intelligent kid, he had a lot of drive and he had a lot of family around him that helped,” Terry Near said. “He had kind of gotten off to a rocky start at the beginning in high school, but when he got in the Job Corps he really started to get his life together and he pretty much took off from there.”

After completing his training at Centennial Job Corps, Near decided he wanted to continue to pursue his education. The Army offered him an opportunity to do that, Terry Near said.

Those who knew Near remembered him for his sense of humor and quick wit.

"He was a funny and a fun kid," said Lisa Rosberg, principal at Granger Middle School. "He just always was looking for a way to make people laugh and get people's attention."

Michael Delaney, Near's computer instructor at Centennial Job Corps in Nampa, Idaho, said much the same, remembering him as an upbeat class clown who excelled at his studies. "Many students in the program have emotional baggage because of their backgrounds," Delaney said. "I never really saw that with Robert. I never saw him sulking in the corner."

Before joining the military, Near completed 13 months of training at Job Corps, a federal program, earning certificates as a computer operator and in business technology.

Delaney, a former military recruiter, encouraged Near to consider joining the military after Job Corps, partly to help pay for college. However, he said Near understood the risks of combat when he enlisted. "He thought the benefits were higher than the risks," Delaney said.

“He knew the dangers of enlisting with the war going on and all, but he was willing to take that risk,” his uncle said. “And he did. He stood up. He was a man.” An infantryman on track for promotion, Near had excelled in the military, according to family. “We can’t say enough about him,” Terry Near said.

Army Pfc. Robert J. Near was killed in action on 1/07/11.

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