Army Sgt. David Travis Friedrich of Naugatuck, a member of the 325th Military Intelligence Company in Waterbury, died Sept. 20, 2003 when mortars hit a U.S. base near the Abu Ghraib prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad. He was 26 years old.
Sgt. David Travis Friedrich, a member of the 325th Military Intelligence Company in Waterbury, and another soldier died Saturday when mortars hit the base near the Abu Ghraib prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad. Thirteen other soldiers were injured in the 10 p.m. attack. No prisoners were injured.
Friedrich, a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of New Haven, grew up in Hammond, N.Y., before moving to Connecticut. He was accepted into the forensics studies program at UNH in spring 2000. Howard Harris, coordinator of UNH's graduate forensic science program, said that Friedrich was enrolled in the advanced investigation program.
``He was a good student and really pleasant guy -- a hard-working guy,'' Harris said. ``It's a real shame. This was a young guy with a lot of potential.''
Friedrich's studies were interrupted the first time when he was called into active duty after 9/11. In January, he was called again.
``We are deeply saddened by his death ... and we appreciate the thoughts and prayers of our fellow Americans,'' Friedrich's parents, David and Elizabeth Friedrich of Gouverneur, N.Y., said in a statement released through Army officials at Fort Drum. ``Travis was a great son and a wonderful person and we will miss him greatly.''
Elizabeth Friedrich spoke to The Associated Press Tuesday night.
``One of the things that comforts us is we had a really wonderful relationship with Travis,'' she said.
``We never had those bad times that parents have with kids. Last time we saw him at Christmas, we ... said 'I love you.' I don't feel there was any unfinished business.''
She said her son never intended to have a military career. He enlisted to help pay for graduate school, she said.
Her son's friend, Joseph Flanagan, said Friedrich decided to go into military intelligence because he hoped to work for the CIA.
Flanagan and Friedrich were both on the cross country team at Brockport College in New York, where Friedrich received a bachelor's degree in chemistry. Friedrich was co-captain of the team in his senior year.
``Everything he did, he tried to do as hard as he could do it,'' said Flanagan, who lives in Brockport. ``He was just a great guy. He always had something funny to say.''
Because Friedrich was in a military intelligence unit, he rarely could tell his friends where he was after being deployed, Flanagan said.
Besides going to school, Flanagan said, Friedrich worked for a private investigation company. He recently had worked undercover at a factory to help curb employee theft, Flanagan said.
Mark Krueger, another former teammate, said Friedrich always kept the team amused with his funny comments.
``Even though I hadn't talked to him in a while, it really hits you,'' said Krueger, now the coach of the team. ``It just doesn't make sense the way things happened.''
Friedrich was deployed to Fort Dix, N.J., in February, said Eric Hurwitz, spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve in Ayer, Mass.
His company then was sent to Iraq.
Richard Eaton, spokesman for UNH, said Friedrich was close to completing his studies.
Eaton's own son, Richard Eaton Jr., died Aug. 10 in Iraq. The counterintelligence officer from Guilford died of an illness.
Eaton said that when he was informed about Friedrich, ``it grabbed my soul.''
``It really hits close to home,'' he said. ``My heart goes out to his family and friends.''
Gov. John G. Rowland, who called Friedrich selfless and courageous, ordered state flags to remain at half-staff.
``Sergeant Friedrich's sacrifice for the independence of another nation sets a timeless example of courage and devotion to duty for all future generations,'' Rowland said.
Including Eaton, Friedrich is the fifth member of the military from Connecticut to die in Iraq.
Army Pfc. Wilfredo Perez Jr., 24, of Norwalk, died July 26 during a grenade attack as he was guarding a children's hospital just north of Baghdad.
Marine Cpl. Kemaphoom Chanawongse, 22, of Waterford, and Gunnery Sgt. Philip A. Jordan, 42, of Enfield, were killed March 23 during firefights outside the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.
- WILLIAM WEIR