- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

The suicide bomb attack on a U.S. base near Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday killed two National Guardsmen from Virginia — one a graduate from Gar-Field High School in Stafford, the other a Virginia Tech student from King George County.

Army Spcs. David Ruhren and Nick Mason, both 20, were members of the 229th Engineer Battalion in Fredericksburg, which was attached to the 276th Engineer Battalion, Charlie Company, 3rd Platoon.

Their platoon has been assigned gate guard duty and making improvements at Forward Operating Base Marez, and is preparing to come home in February.

Spc. Ruhren celebrated Thanksgiving at home in North Stafford and returned to the base on Nov. 29. In April in Iraq, he reminisced about the pleasures of fly-fishing in the lake behind his mother’s house.

“Being out waist-deep in my lake fly-fishing,” Spc. Ruhren recalled in an e-mail, “cool breeze in the air, and my dog fast asleep on the shore in the sunshine waiting for me to come back in. Simple things like that are what really matter the most — not cars and money, like some others might think.”

In March, Spc. Ruhren wrapped a box of small gifts for an ex-girlfriend with whom he had reconnected during his deployment to Iraq. In the package he placed a stuffed camel, a delicate bracelet made of Iraqi silver and a handwritten note.

“I have to have something to look forward to at the end of the day,” he said as he wrapped the box.

A member of the Marine Corps ROTC unit at Gar-Field High School, Spc. Ruhren had been in the National Guard since he was 17. In Iraq, he manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a dump truck fortified with steel plates. His duty was to shoot at distant threats while his platoon provided security on missions in Mosul.

Like Spc. Ruhren, Spc. Mason had been in Iraq nearly a year. In April, the Virginia Tech sophomore was a key part of a mission to find and destroy artillery shells buried at a farm outside Mosul.

His platoon and a team from the 2nd Infantry Division set out on foot through potato fields and wet grass. Spc. Mason carried mine-detecting equipment on his back.

An informant led the soldiers to a mound of earth, where Spc. Mason and his team set up their mine-detecting gear. They found 33 Iraqi artillery shells that could have been used by insurgents to fashion roadside bombs.

They surrounded the cache of artillery shells with plastic explosives and — from a safe distance behind an earthen berm — detonated the charges. Shrapnel landed at Spc. Mason’s feet.

Spcs. Mason and Ruhren were among the 13 service members killed in a suicide bomb attack on their base Tuesday. Five American civilians and three Iraqi national guard members also were killed.

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