This is in memory of Army Spc. Daniel Unger, who died Tuesday at the age of 19.
Our son, Daniel McNasby, was a resident of Steamboat Springs after his graduation from Regis University, and was a member of Routt County Search and Rescue for the five years he lived in Steamboat.
He was working for AON in Los Angeles before being activated. AON lost a few hundred employees in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Dan, who previously had been in the Marine Corps, felt an obligation to do something for his country after the attacks, so he joined the National Guard.
Dan Unger graduated in California from Exter Union High School in 2003. He participated in the Bill Gloss prison ministries and played center field on the high school baseball team.
His dad is pastor of Exter Baptist Church.
After Sept. 11, Dan felt obligated to do something for his country, so he joined the National Guard.
It is here that the two Dans' paths cross. They were both part of the 1-185th combat group out of Corona, Calif.
Dan Unger turned 19 on March 21 -- four days after arriving in Kuwait.
Dan McNasby turned 30 on May 6, while in Iraq.
Dan McNasby was Dan Unger's sergeant and, I am sure ... his big brother.
My wife, Lynne, and I sat in the stands at Fort Irwin, Calif., on March 13 to watch the send-off ceremonies for the California National Guard. I am sure that Dan Unger's parents, his 17-year-old brother and his 13- and 11-year-old sisters were in those same stands, proud of their soldier brother/son and praying that he would be home again someday, safe and sound.
The two Dans were based at FBO Kalsu, which is near the town of Iskandariyah, about 25 miles south of Baghdad. FBO Kalsu was named after a soldier who played professional football with the Buffalo Bills and who died in Vietnam. It is in a poor farming area.
Saddam Hussein would not let the farmers use the water from the canal. As a result, the children grew up with little to eat and had to sleep on dirt floors.
Their lives were drastically changing for the better because of the American presence.
About one month ago, our son Dan asked us to contact family and friends.
He requested that they stop sending him care packages. Instead, he wanted everyone to send him children's clothing, shoes and school supplies.
He wanted clothing of all sizes, from birth through the teen years. Our families contacted schools and started the supplies rolling.
Our soldiers felt so fortunate that they had the opportunity to grow up in America.
They felt it was their duty to make a difference in the lives of the people in Iskandariyah.
The afternoon of May 25, FBO Kalsu came under attack. One mortar shell hit dead center in the camp, and as the soldiers came running to help their fallen comrades, more mortars hit the camp.
The soldiers live in tents, not buildings, and when it was over, three soldiers were dead. Two of them were from the Vermont National Guard; Spc. Daniel Unger was the third.
About 20 soldiers suffered injuries. Some injuries were very serious, and those soldiers were flown to Germany for medical care.
Our son Dan sustained shrapnel injuries to his leg and was treated at the base. That will heal quickly; the loss of Dan Unger won't.
Except for the L.A. Times newspaper, I have not seen Dan Unger's name mentioned once in the news. The whole event was second-page news in all but the hometowns of the dead soldiers.
Dan Unger's family needs to know their son always will be more than a name on a wall. Their son and big brother will always be a true American hero.
All gave some -- some gave all. God bless you, Daniel Unger.