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Fallen Soldier Honored

Ten days after he was killed in Iraq, crowds turned out to show their support to the family of 22-year-old Nick Steinbacher.

December 21, 2006|By Mary O'Keefe

At about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the foothills fell silent in honor of fallen soldier Nick Steinbacher.

From Crippen Mortuary on Honolulu Avenue to St. James The Less Catholic Church on Dunsmore Avenue, crowds of people of all ages and from all walks of life lined the streets holding flags and standing in a solemn tribute to one of this area's own. They were there to witness the hearse carrying the young soldier to the church, where a funeral mass began at 3 p.m.

Steinbacher, 22, became the 300th Californian killed in Iraq when he suffered fatal wounds from an explosion during a night patrol. According to a spokeswoman at Fort Hood where he was based, Steinbacher was killed on Dec. 10 while serving in Baghdad after an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee vehicle.

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Wednesday's tribute was pulled together quickly and was achieved by neighbors calling neighbors and mothers e-mailing other mothers to get the word out.

Evidence that Steinbacher's life and service to his country made an impact to the community could be seen in the faces of those who lined the streets.

"It just broke my heart. I mean I pray every day for these guys but to actually have one from your own community, even though we don't know the family, it just [feels] so minor to be here but it's respect for the country, and the young man and his family," said participant Cathleen Wortmann, as she clutched the American flag.

Everyone interviewed Wednesday said the lining of the streets was a gesture to honor Steinbacher's service and to show their gratitude for his family's sacrifice.

"I went to school with Nick since elementary school," said Robert Larsen, a Marine who stood alongside others and saluted the hearse as it passed by. "We played football together."

Larsen served in Iraq from January to August of this year. When asked if he was going to have to go back to the war-torn country, he replied, "I hope not."

Steinbacher had joined the Army in Dec. 2004 and was deployed to Iraq in late October. He was an infantryman and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division since June 2005. He had just celebrated his birthday on Dec. 8.

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