Family says soldier felt need to help buddies

Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Coby Schwab went back to Iraq for a second time because he didn’t want his buddies to fight the country’s freedom-wrecking militants alone, his family said Monday.

On Thursday, the 25-year-old Henderson soldier died doing just that when a second roadside bomb exploded as he was trying to recover a Humvee that already had been hit by one in the pre-dawn hours near Ramadi.

"His commanding officer said he died a hero," his mother, Jane Hanson, said late Monday while she and his stepfather, Don Hanson, flipped through photos of him spread across their dining room table.

"He was just a very caring, giving person," she said. "He always would make sure everybody else was comfortable, that everybody else had what they needed before he even worried about himself.

"His buddies, his guys from the Stryker Brigade … that’s why he went back over to Iraq," she said. "He felt very strongly that if something happened to his brothers over there, he would not live with himself. So he had to be over there to help protect and fight for them."

A Pentagon news release Saturday listed Schwab’s hometown as Puyallup, Wash.

But Jane Hanson said that her son had spent most of his life in Henderson. He had joined the Army in 2000 after graduating from a Clark County magnet high school, the Advanced Technologies Academy, where he was an honor student in architecture.

He sought adventure, she said. "He wanted to jump out of planes and climb mountains."

He served his first tour in Iraq in 2004 and returned to live in the Seattle area not far from the Stryker Brigade’s post, Fort Lewis.

He later joined an Army Reserve unit there as a combat engineer and married another Fort Lewis soldier about a year ago. They were divorced on April 26.

The soldier who was killed Thursday by the first improvised explosive device was Spc. Kelly B. Grothe, 21, of Spokane, Wash. Both were assigned to Bravo Company of the Army Reserve’s 321st Engineer Battalion out of Hayden Lake, Idaho. The unit had been sent to Iraq in September to clear roadside bombs.

After the first bomb exploded, Schwab and another soldier responded in a Humvee in an attempt to pull the damaged Humvee to a safe zone. Schwab had entered the damaged vehicle and had just climbed out of it when the second device exploded, killing him, his family said.

He is the 49th member of the U.S. military with ties to Nevada who has died in the wars overseas since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Coby Glen Schwab was born Jan. 12, 1982, in Grand Junction, Colo., his mother’s only child. They moved to the Las Vegas Valley from Fort Collins, Colo., in 1988.

He attended Burkholder Middle School in Henderson and played on the Dodgers Little League team.

"He was involved in hockey and baseball and those kinds of things," she said. "He loved life. He was an outdoors person and was into sports and hiking."

Because of his mother’s upbringing in the Rocky Mountains, he was especially fond of hiking and recently had returned to school, in Washington, to study geology.

They had hiked the Narrows in Southern Utah’s Zion National Park when he was on leave in September 2004. "We did it in eight hours, the two of us," she said.

Don Hanson, a former airman at Nellis Air Force Base who works at the Riviera, had been Schwab’s stepfather since 1990. "He was as close to me as any son could be," he said.

"He had no problem going back (to Iraq) because of what was being done and because of the people he had dealt with the first time he was there," he said.

Don Hanson said the media do not emphasize the military’s accomplishments in Iraq. "They aren’t telling about the schools that are opened, the power that’s been turned on, the water that’s being delivered," he said.

"There’s a number of things I feel would be more appropriate than these damn politicians trying to say the war is lost," he said. "I’m really pissed at (Sen. Harry) Reid. Personal belief is one thing. But when you’re in that position, I don’t think you should voice everything," he said about the Senate majority leader from Nevada.

Jane Hanson, a florist at an Albertsons store, said her son felt "very strongly that the war was necessary. He was proud to be over there. He was proud to be fight that war."

She, too, believes the war in Iraq was necessary. But now, she said, "I have a hard time with the war. I really do because of all the sons that have been lost. It’s a hard thing. War is always hard. … I would love to have our boys home. I would love all of them to be home right now and say it’s over with and put it behind us.

"But I don’t think that would solve anything. I think if we pulled out now, we would see more terrorist acts right here in our own home country," she said.

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