'A hard worker, a good soldier'
Stars and Stripes June 2, 2007
Mideast edition, Saturday, June 2, 2007
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- He was the kind of man who always wore his dog tags outside his shirt so everyone would see he was a soldier.
On Friday, members of the Schweinfurt military community gathered at the Ledward Barracks chapel to pay tribute to him.
Just weeks after his 20th birthday, Spc. Nicholas S. Hartge, of Rome City, Ind., died May 14 in the Adhamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad, of wounds resulting from a grenade and roadside bomb attack that also wounded four other soldiers in his unit.
Speaking at the ceremony was Hartge's friend and comrade-in-arms, Sgt. Shawn P. Ladue, who was back in Germany after being wounded downrange.
'It took him no time to distinguish himself as a hard worker and a good soldier,' Ladue said.
When Hartge was first assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment 'Blue Spaders,' he was tasked to be a driver. "He didn't like not working with us -- (he would say) he came here to be an infantryman," Ladue said of his friend.
It didn't take long for Ladue to figure out that Hartge was someone whom he could trust to 'watch his back,' saying he did his best to return the favor.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you," a choked-up Ladue said. "I feel better knowing you spent your last moments on Earth with the brothers in our platoon."
Hartge had a fondness for racing cars, and was nicknamed "Hitman" in Iraq because he always seemed to be running into walls or vehicles whenever he drove. Hartge was remembered as a "hardcore Republican," Ladue said.
When members of his unit would tease him, saying that Republicans were why they were in Iraq, Hartge would "get all political on us -- but he knew we were busting his chops -- most of us could care less about politics," Ladue said.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised in Rome City, Hartge enlisted in the Army immediately following graduation from East Noble High School, where he wrestled and played trumpet.
While still in school, Hartge applied for acceptance at the U.S. Military Academy, but didn't get it. His brother, 1st Lt. Ryan Abbot, graduated West Point and is currently flying Army helicopters in South Korea.
Although he was in Iraq, Hartge had not given up his dream of attending West Point. When he took leave in March, he took the SAT so he could add his scores to his application packet for an academy preparatory school.
Having already received letters of recommendation from his unit commanders, when Hartge found out that if he was accepted, he'd leave Iraq for school in July, he stopped his application.
"He passed up the chance to leave Iraq and go to school because he didn't want to leave his brothers behind," Ladue said.
In addition to his brother, Hartge is survived by his mother and stepfather, Lisa and Dave Abbott; father, Scott; and sister, Elise. Lisa Abbot told battalion commander Lt. Col. Eric Schacht that any money her sonâ€™s memorial received would go to the Blue Spaders.
Another Germany-based infantryman killed in Iraq
Fighting in Baghdad has claimed the life of a Schweinfurt-based infantryman.
Spc. Clinton Coy Blodgett, 19, of Pekin, Ind., died May 26 when the vehicle in which he was riding was struck by a roadside bomb, the Pentagon announced this week.
Blodgett was assigned to 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment.
Although Blodgettâ€™s hometown was listed as Pekin, 25 miles north of Louisville, Ky., he will be buried in Wilson, Okla., where his father, Don Blodgett, resides, according to The Associated Press.
The elder Blodgett told the AP that his son, who had been home to visit in March, joined the Army to be like his father, who had served in the first Gulf War with the Oklahoma National Guard.
â€œHe was just independent. He always liked guns, hunting, driving four-wheelers. Over there, he was shooting guns and driving Humvees,â€ Don Blodgett said.
At the end of his Army enlistment, the son wanted to stay in Iraq as a civilian security guard, his father said.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of kids getting killed over there,â€ Don Blodgett said. â€œI was hoping it wouldnâ€™t be one of mine. But everybodyâ€™s got to pay the price, otherwise theyâ€™ll be killing us in our living rooms.â€
A memorial service for Blodgett has not yet been scheduled, said a public affairs official in Schweinfurt.
Also on Friday, the official said that a memorial for another Dagger Brigade soldier, Staff Sgt. Virgil Chance Martinez, of 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment â€” who died May 6 in Baghdadâ€™s Kadhimiyah district â€” has been postponed until members of his family can attend.
â€” Mark St.Clair