Family clinging to hope for missing soldier
The grieving grandfather of a soldier ambushed in Iraq over the weekend says his family is still clinging to slim hopes that he’ll be found alive.
Robert Asper of Rohnert Park, Calif., said Wednesday that the family is anxiously awaiting word on the fate of Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, who’s believed to be among three soldiers missing after the ambush south of Baghdad.
“We’re in shock and grief and hoping he can get out,” Asper told The Associated Press. “But al-Qaeda doesn’t give people back and doesn’t go by any rules of war.
They’re barbarians and they kill people.”
“I’m surprised we haven’t seen them (three missing soldiers) on TV pleading for their lives,” he said.
“We keep up hope that he’ll be found alive. But I’d say it’s a slim chance,” Asper said.
The ambush left four soldiers dead and three missing. The Pentagon identified three of those killed, but is waiting for more tests before the identity of the fourth dead soldier can be confirmed.
Schober’s mother, Roberta Schober of Carson City, and father, Mark Webb of Indianapolis, were originally told by the military that their son was dead, but were later informed he was missing, Asper said.
The parents have indicated to military officials that they are not ready to talk to the media.
At a news conference Wednesday in Carson City, Schober’s uncle, Bob Schober of Minden, issued a brief statement but took no questions. He was flanked by other family members, including Edward Schober, Anthony Schober’s stepfather. Roberta Schober did not attend.
“We want to thank the families and friends of the nation for the prayers and their support,” Bob Schober said. “Our prayers are with Anthony and the two soldiers and with their families.
“Our sympathies are with the families of the fallen soldiers. We are proud of all the armed forces, and their families and the sacrifices they are making for our nation,” he said.
Anthony Schober, who was on his third tour of duty in Iraq, headed a squad that was trying to prevent insurgents from laying roadside bombs at night when the ambush occurred, according to Asper.
“Apparently, they (insurgents) knew they were coming and jumped them,” Asper said. “There were only eight men in the squad at the time, and there’s supposed to be 12. Why only eight men? We still don’t know.”
Schober lived in California before attending Douglas High School in Minden as a sophomore and junior. He joined the Army in 2001 after getting his high school diploma from the Sierra Nevada Job Corps in Reno the same year.
Described by his grandfather as quiet and slender but strong, Schober’s interests included video games and bicycle riding at the time.
“Without question, his time here was a positive experience and he did well,” said Ken Dugan, director of the Job Corps. “He was able to slam his high school diploma and complete the cement mason program.”
Asper said his grandson initially was excited about the military’s mission to drive the Taliban from Afghanistan. But while on leave in Carson City last July, Schober expressed reservations about the U.S. role in Iraq, Asper said.
“He just said he didn’t like it,” Asper said. “They (military) told him the Iraqi people would give them flowers and candy, and they were throwing rocks and shooting at him instead. He didn’t like the Iraqi people because they didn’t appreciate them being there.”
Asper faulted the Bush administration for not sending more U.S. troops to Iraq from the start.
“It’s a waste of young lives,” Asper said. “We should not be in the middle of a civil war. Let them fight it out among themselves. We’re just a police force over there.”
“Anthony didn’t think it was a good idea,” he said.
Schober was awarded a Purple Heart after being blown from a Humvee by a blast, Asper said. His jaw had to be wired shut for about a month, but the injury wasn’t severe enough to send him home.
The seven American soldiers were members of the famed 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Drum, N.Y.
– Associated Press Writer Brendan Riley in Carson City contributed to this report.