WASHTUCNA, Wash. – Weeks after arriving in Iraq in March, Army Spc. Blain Matthew Ebert asked people in his home town to send clothes and shoes for Iraqi children.
Residents of this dusty hamlet about halfway between the Tri-Cities and Spokane responded with box after box of clothing, candy and other goods.
On Monday, Ebert, 22, was killed at a roadblock near Baghdad. He was a tank commander in the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas.
“He spent every moment over there worrying about those people,” his father, Michael Ebert, said Tuesday. “In his eyes, love and the future of Iraq were going to come through the Iraqi children.”
Ebert popped his head out of his tank’s command hatch, and “a sniper got him,” his father said. “It was instant death with one shot. I’m grateful he didn’t suffer.”
Born and reared on the family’s wheat farm, Ebert loved farming, deer hunting, snowmobiling and football. He enlisted before he graduated in 2001 from the local high school, where a community memorial is set for 1 p.m. today.
He married in May 2003 and signed up last month for five more years of Army service.
Ebert was injured last month when a car bomb exploded near his tank. But after a couple of weeks of desk work while nursing a bruised eardrum and sore back, he asked “to be sent back out there” on combat duty, his father said.
By Tuesday, well-wishers from Washtucna, Ritzville, Lind and La Crosse had erected a large makeshift memorial in a municipal park that Ebert’s older brother established years ago as an Eagle Scout project, the father said.
Two boys lined Main Street with the town’s American flags, usually reserved for Fourth of July celebrations, he added.
“That’s just the way small communities are,” he said. “One hurts, everybody hurts.”