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Soldier's last call

September 18, 2005|By BONNIE H, BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

SHIPPENSBURG, PA.

Army Pfc. Nathaniel DeTample called home as often as he could while serving in Iraq. The last time he spoke with his family was Aug. 9.

"He talked about the children," said his father, Glenn DeTample. Nate, as his family calls him, and a buddy had handed out sandals to Iraqi children, who were thrilled with the footwear.

A few hours later, Nate, his buddy and three other soldiers died when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle.

When the DeTamples received Nate's personal effects, they discovered a video clip Nate had shot of the children receiving the sandals.

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"You can see his wrist and his shadow" on the clip, said his mother, Kim.

A Shippensburg University freshman, Nate, 19, served with the 111th Infantry of the Pennsylvania National Guard. He had completed one semester of college before being deployed.

At an Aug., 19 memorial service for Nate, the university flag flew at half-staff. The boxed flag was presented Saturday afternoon to the DeTample family before the Shippensburg-Millersville football game.

Master Sgt. Cedric Jackson was Nate's ROTC instructor on campus. When Jackson asked his class their reasons for coming into ROTC, several said for the extra credit and some said for the discipline, he recalled.

"Nate said because he wanted to serve his country. That was his dream," Jackson said after the presentation. "He volunteered to do things. That says a lot about an individual and about his character."

"He was a blessing for Shippensburg University, for the Army and for the ROTC. He will be talked about for years. He inspired other ROTC members to join the Army and go. We miss him. He made us laugh."

A criminal justice major, Nate hoped to follow his father into law enforcement, according to Peter Gigliotti, executive director for university communications and marketing. Glenn DeTample is a detective with the Lower Makefield Township (Pa.) police.

Glenn and Kim DeTample held hands as they spoke about their oldest child Saturday afternoon. Their son, Staten, 18, and daughter, Vicky, 15, sat with them.

Glenn said that Nate was "very independent. He was an Eagle Scout, he was motivated, If he wants something, he goes after it. He was (in Iraq) for all the right reasons. He wanted to serve. I tried to talk him out of it, but it was his decision."

In the ROTC's split options program, Nate took basic training between his junior and senior years of high school. He graduated from Pennsbury High School in 2004 and went on to advanced training. Staten, a senior in high school, is in the same program.

Their home community of Morrisville, Pa., north of Philadelphia, has been supportive, the DeTamples said.

"Nate loved the neighborhood he grew up in. The neighbors held a vigil for him (upon learning of his death)," his father said. "He built benches at the local library as his Eagle Scout project."

Nate had been looking forward to returning to Shippensburg in January, his mother said. He called home once to make sure she was preparing the necessary paperwork,

"We lost a great potential," Gigliotti said. "He might have been president."

"I really looked up to Nate," Staten said. "He was always there for me. I wanted to do everything like Nate. I'm going to stay in the Army, drive on and become a good soldier."

The brothers shared interests, even though they fought sometimes, Staten added.

"We did everything together," he said. "He got me into Boy Scouts and into wrestling."

Vicky remembered her brother fondly.

"He was my motivation for swimming," she said. A sophomore, she is on her school's swim team.

The men and women serving in Iraq are "in our hearts and in our prayers," Kim said.

"Good people left families and jobs behind," Glenn said. "Our best youth are over there."

Glenn said that losing his son has not changed his perspective on the war.

"We're over there, and we've got a job to do," he said. "It's bigger than us. If we leave tomorrow, there will be a lot of dead Iraqis - (maybe) those children he gave sandals to."

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