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Maryland Town Mourns Second Soldier Lost in Iraq


Last month NPR profiled Lance Corporal Norman Anderson. He was a 21-year-old Marine killed in Iraq. He was serving there with his best friend, Corporal Joshua Snyder. Well, now Snyder, too, has died in Iraq, killed under enemy fire in Fallujah. The young men played football together, enlisted in the Marines together and then shared an apartment at boot camp. NPR's Ben Bergman reports from the high school they both attended in Parkton, Maryland.

BEN BERGMAN reporting:

It's basketball season here at Hereford High School outside Baltimore, but tonight the gym is filling with mourners. After the game, they'll pay tribute to Joshua Snyder. His uncle, John Snyder, remembers him this way.

Mr. JOHN SNYDER: Fun-loving, caring, very devoted and honest--had a little mischievous in him, but he was out for a good time. He worked hard and played hard.

BERGMAN: Snyder always wanted to be a Marine, just like his best friend, Norman Anderson. Tricia Amos graduated with both of them.

Ms. TRICIA AMOS: You grow up with these kids. We went through everything together, you know. We go through our awkward middle-school stages and then the high school to become men and women, and having to lose someone right before, like, you're considered a man, like, it's really hard.

BERGMAN: Anderson married his high school sweetheart, Victoria Worthing, right before he left for Iraq. This time has been especially difficult for her because she was also very close with Snyder. He was a longtime friend and the one who often called from Iraq to console her after her husband died.

Mrs. VICTORIA ANDERSON: This is a double whammy. It was already open wounds. When I heard about Josh, it was--I didn't know what to do. It was all too familiar. There's so much pain and so much grief. It's overwhelming to the point where you don't know what you're feeling sometimes.

BERGMAN: Victoria Anderson sees a lot of her husband's mother, Robin Anderson, who wears a dog tag with her son's picture in it around her neck. Two months after he son's death, is life getting any easier?

Ms. ROBIN ANDERSON: No, it's getting harder. Because in the beginning you're surrounded by people and you're so busy taking care of things that need to be taken care of--you know, you kind of keep yourself busy. But then afterwards, things kind of settle down and everybody gets back to their normal everyday lives, and your life will never be normal again. There is no such thing as normal again. It's changed forever. You get up every day, you put one foot in front of the other and you try to make the best of it. That's all you can do.

BERGMAN: Even as she grieves, Robin Anderson regularly consoles Snyder's mother. They watched their sons grow up together, and now they'll visit them together at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ms. ANDERSON: I just tell her that every day you get up, you try to think of the good things that you possibly can think of and that it's not going to be easy, because it's not. I mean, you lose a child--there is no loss like the loss of a child.

(Soundbite of memorial service music)

BERGMAN: At the memorial service in the gym, there's a 2001 state championship banner that Snyder and Anderson helped win. Snyder's mother, Doris, remembers one of her son's last requests.

DORIS: He wanted his championship jersey to go back to his coach and his mentor.

BERGMAN: That mentor is Steve Turnbaugh. Snyder was not only his football player but also one of his coaches. Turnbaugh remembers how when another student who was in a wheelchair wanted to learn to lift weights, Snyder took him under his wing and trained him. He says it was that same desire of wanting to help other people that made Snyder want to join the Marines. Turnbaugh says that despite the loss of two players, he has current team members who are more determined than ever to go to Iraq.

Mr. STEVE TURNBAUGH: And the boy who's a senior now--he's going in the Marine Corps--he's looked at all his options and this is what he wants to do. I mean, so what he needs is the support--it's not my place--I don't say, `You see what happened here. You know, you can't do that.'

BERGMAN: Is that hard at all?

Mr. TURNBAUGH: It is hard. You know, I go into the weight room and I have that '01 picture up there. I see the two that have been killed and that's all I think about.

BERGMAN: Turnbaugh says he's normally not one for retiring jerseys, but in this case, it's a perfect way to memorialize two teammates.

Mr. TURNBAUGH: Anybody that ever comes into this gym--they're going to see Anderson and Snyder's jerseys up on the wall, and I just hope--I do not want to put anymore jerseys up there.

(Soundbite of memorial service music)

Unidentified Choir: (Singing) I want to live in paradise. Glory, hallelujah.

BERGMAN: As the school choir sings at the memorial, Turnbaugh says he often e-mails a third friend and classmate now in Iraq, Grant Hemmerly. When Hemmerly comes home, the school will hold another ceremony, Turnbaugh says. This time it'll be a coming-home party like you wouldn't believe. Ben Bergman, NPR News.

(Soundbite of memorial service music)

Unidentified Choir: (Singing) Glory, hallelujah.

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Bergman