A family in Clovis, California, which is near Fresno, has sadly become the modern day version of the Ryans, real-life brothers depicted in Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film "Saving Private Ryan" wherein all but one died serving his country in World War II.
For the Hubbards, Nathan, the second of three brothers serving in Iraq, died Wednesday in a helicopter accident in the northern part of that embattled nation. This came two years, nine months, and eighteen days after the death of brother Jared there.
The sole surviving brother, Jason, the eldest, returned home Friday, and according to the Associated Press, may not be going back to Iraq:
The family has been told that, if he requests it, Jason Hubbard will be discharged or given a noncombat assignment under an Army policy governing sole surviving siblings and children of soldiers killed in combat, said Tim Rolen, a family friend and pastor who co-presided at Jared Hubbard's funeral on Veteran's Day 2004.
"In all of our minds we have an order of the way things go. The death of a child is out of order. You now have a family that has lost two," Rolen said. "One doesn't prepare you for another one."
As the youngest of four brothers, this story touches me deeply, and I was quite pleased to see that it had received some national attention. For instance, this report was logged on Thursday's "CBS Evening News" (video available here):
KATIE COURIC, anchor:
We told you last night about that tragic crash of a Black Hawk helicopter in northern Iraq. Fourteen soldiers were killed. And for one California family it was an especially painful loss. Here's Kimberly Dozier.
KIMBERLY DOZIER reporting:
A simple sign of too much pain and too much sacrifice in one house. The Hubbards have just lost a second son to the war in Iraq.
Ms. JANET STOLL-LEE (Family Friend): It's just so unbelievable that this has happened again to the same family.
DOZIER: Specialist Nathan Hubbard was on board the Black Hawk chopper that crashed newer Kirkuk, the Army says, from mechanical failure, killing all 14 troops on board.
Three years ago the family buried their son, Marine Lance Corporal Jared Hubbard, killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, together with his childhood best friend, Marine Lance Corporal Jeremiah Barrow. His two brothers, Nathan and Jason, decided to fight back. They joined the Army, completing basic training at Fort Benning, and together deployed to Iraq.
Reverend TIM ROLEN (New Hope Community Church): These were aggressively committed young men to their friends, their family, whatever sport, activity or event that they were participating in.
DOZIER: Army officials tell CBS News that, in a case like this, no branch of the US military will force family members to fight on. They know what it can do to a family, as immortalized in the film "Saving Private Ryan," based on a soldier who lost three of his brothers in World War II.
(Excerpt of "Saving Private Ryan")
DOZIER: In the town of Clovis, families have now lost seven of their sons.
Rev. ROLEN: I don't think there's anything more devastating than a parent losing a child.
DOZIER: Surviving son Jason Hubbard has left his unit in Iraq to be with his family in California at this difficult time. The choice he'll now face is how best to honor his brothers' sacrifice and his family's loss after this second funeral. Go back to Iraq, or stay home. Kimberly Dozier, CBS News, the Pentagon.
Well done. ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson" also did a segment about the Hubbards Thursday evening, while CNN did multiple reports on the family Thursday and Friday including this must-see video.
For those interested in more about the Hubbards, the following video from Fresno's ABC affiliate is also a must see.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the Hubbards. With that in mind, it seems fitting to end with Abraham Lincoln's famous letter to Lydia Bixby of Massachusetts:
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,