ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : U.S. Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek had only one wish for his homecoming: that the streets of Westwood be lined with American flags. The route home for Hrbek, who was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, will be off the Garden State Parkway and then along Washington Avenue, likely next Wednesday, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Everyone in town is expected to fly the Stars and Stripes in honor of the hometown hero
UPDATE : Sgt. Hrbek’s remains arrived Saturday at Dover Air Force base . Further arrangements handled by Becker Funeral Home.
Fellow congregants at Zion Lutheran Church had been preparing a festive homecoming. Bill Schmidt, a former Bergen County prosecutor and now an elder with the church, had bought the Blue Star Service flag on Wednesday.
A day later, church members discovered that the 25-year-old sergeant had stepped on a hidden explosive device that detonated and killed him.
“I am heart-sick beyond belief,” said Schmidt, whose nephew was killed in battle just six years ago. “I can’t even even begin to imagine the family…. Well, actually, I can, since my wife, her sister, sister’s kids, etc., went through it.”
Hrbek, Schmidt said, “was a U.S. Marine sergeant and proud of it and all that it represented.”
Now a community is preparing to bury the volunteer firefighter and career serviceman, who was killed while on patrol in the dangerous Helmand Province.
As of Friday, Jan. 15, 2010, at least 878 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the “Operation Enduring Freedom” invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.
The AP count is five more than the Defense Department’s tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.
At least 675 military personnel died in the Afghan region as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.
Hrbek was scheduled to return home in May after three tours of duty in Iraq three times, first in 2005, and then a hitch in Afghanistan that began only in November.
He was an artillery cannoneer assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he made several friends and became fan of the Carolina Panthers NFL team.
Hrbek, who leaves a 23-year-old wife, Jamie, was about to be awarded a Bronze Star for saving his sergeant major — who, like him, stepped on an IED while under fire just before Christmas. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE….
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