A former Spokane and Newport, Wash., resident was killed by a roadside bomb Wednesday in Iraq, where he was serving with his Spokane-based National Guard unit.
Sgt. Jeff Shaver, 27, a medic in the 161st Infantry Battalion, was working at a clinic in Baghdad when he volunteered for the mission that cost him his life, according to informal reports circulating among family and friends.
The National Guard press office near Tacoma said it had no information to release Thursday evening.
Shaver graduated from Newport High School in 1997 and worked in Spokane until September 2002, when he moved to Maple Valley, in Western Washington, to be closer to his family. He was working toward a helicopter aviation degree at Green River Community College when he was called to active duty, according to a statement from his family.
Previously, Shaver worked as a medical assistant at Occupational Medicine Associates and as a physical trainer in Spokane. He had earned a certification as an emergency medical technician in 1999.
“I remember Jeff as a wonderful young man, and he will be very much missed,” said Terri Schanzenbach, office manager for Occupational Medicine. “He had a great attitude. He was very outgoing, and he was everyone’s friend.”
One of his co-workers there was his best friend and fellow Guardsman, Cpl. Dale Raschko, 29, who remains on staff as a medical assistant.
“He was just a good guy all around,” Raschko’s mother, Spokane resident Kathleen Nelson, said of Shaver. “He would volunteer for anything, which is probably part of the problem here.”
Nelson knew nothing about the mission in which Shaver died except that he apparently was riding in an exposed position in a Humvee when a bomb, apparently hidden in garbage, detonated as Shaver’s vehicle passed. The Associated Press reported the vehicle was part of a convoy, and that another soldier was injured.
Shaver became the 774th serviceman to die in Iraq since combat began last year.
“He was the best man in my son’s wedding, and they joined (the National Guard) together,” Nelson said. “They didn’t want to join unless they could be together, and Dale, my son, said this was one of the first times they weren’t together.”
The two friends were roommates before Raschko’s marriage in 2000, and they joined the National Guard in 1999. They met at the Life Center Church in Spokane.
Shaver was an outdoorsman who enjoyed mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking and snowboarding, according to the family statement. He showed his artistic side by playing bass, sculpting and drawing.
“He excelled at everything that he tried,” Nelson said. “When they were in boot camp, he was always at the top of the list — the top of the physical training.”
The family’s statement says Shaver is survived by his fiancée, who lives in Quilcene, Wash.; his mother and two sisters in Maple Valley; and his father in Grand Coulee, Wash. The statement lists only their first names.
She said Shaver and Raschko were pleased when, during training at Camp Murray near Tacoma, a major told them he’d want them to treat him if he were wounded in Iraq.
Shaver was “a good, strong Christian boy,” Nelson said, “a very sweet and kind man” who became a part of her family. She said he and her son joined the Guard to get money for college, “never imagining that they would get called to Iraq.”