October 9, 2004 in Nation/World

Soldier, his mother buried side by side

Arthur H. Rotstein Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Dennis Wahrer, left, hugs and is comforted by a well-wisher moments after a service Friday honoring Army Spc. Robert Unruh and his mother, Karen Unruh-Wahrer, at the Southern Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
(Full-size photo)

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. – An Army soldier killed in Iraq and his grief-stricken mother, who died a week later, were buried alongside each other Friday, hailed as “both heroes in their own right, and casualties of war.”

“We’re here today to pay our respects and to honor the passing of two great American heroes,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Thomas McFarland. “One brave soldier, the other a faithful, caring mother.”

Army Spc. Robert Unruh, a combat engineer with the 44th Engineer Battalion, had been stationed in Iraq less than a month when he was shot as his unit came under small arms fire in Al Anbar Province.

Karen Unruh-Wahrer, 45, a respiratory therapist in Tucson, collapsed at her home Oct. 2, hours after viewing her son’s body, and died later that night.

An honor guard presented Unruh’s sister, Amie, with a folded American flag and the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal awarded posthumously to her brother. A 21-gun salute followed.

McFarland said Unruh, the fourth generation of his family to serve in the military, did so “faithfully and he served well. He was a good soldier.” His mother, the chaplain added, provided “the unconditional love of a mother to support her child at a time like that, knowing that he was willingly stepping into harm’s way. Duty called; she was there.”

Urns holding their cremated remains were placed in side-by-side niches inside a vault at the Southern Arizona Veterans Military Cemetery. Unruh became the first combat veteran of the Iraq war interred there.

Results of an autopsy conducted on Unruh-Wahrer have not been released. A friend said earlier in the week that she had been unable to quit crying after her son’s death.

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