Friday, October 20, 2006

He was family’s rock, jokester

A soldier from the area who died in Iraq is remembered for goofy spoofs and caring ways.

The Kansas City Star

David Unger’s accommodations in Iraq weren’t exactly to the standards of “MTV Cribs” — where flush celebrities show off their lavish homes.

But Unger, who rarely passed up a chance to make others laugh hysterically, couldn’t resist making a satirical comparison in a video he sent to his wife, parents and others back in Leavenworth.

While rich athletes and actors generally flaunt their Hummers and pools, the 21-year-old Army corporal mockingly showed off a shabby-looking grassy patch that he declared was “the future bowling alley, golf course, horseshoe arena. It’s all gonna go down right here.”

He joked about the birds who liked to leave droppings on military beds. And when a friend pulled up in an Army-issued armored vehicle, he deadpanned: “You did my rims!”

The video has become a precious memory as his family struggles with ways to cope with Unger’s death on Tuesday (Iraq time) near Baghdad.

The Department of Defense has not released the official details of the Leavenworth man’s death. His mother, Diana Pitts, said her son was killed when an improvised explosive device struck his armored Humvee. Four others, including an Iraqi interpreter, also were killed, she said.

Funeral services, which will be held at the Belden-Sexton-Sumpter Funeral Chapel in Leavenworth, are pending.

Unger, who graduated from Leavenworth High School in 2003, is survived by his wife, Laura Unger, a son, a daughter, his mother and father, and four younger siblings.

Pitts said Unger was expected to leave Iraq for Kuwait in mid-November. He would have returned to Texas with the 4th Infantry Division in December. Unger already had decided not to re-enlist and instead return to Leavenworth to spend more time with his family, Pitts said.

She and other family members now wonder how they will get by without her oldest child, who would have turned 22 on Halloween.

“For almost 22 years, he was the rock of our family,” she said.

But even as she fought back tears, his mother couldn’t help but smile remembering her son’s goofy spoofs and thoughtful Valentine’s Day card to his wife.

Even as a young child, Unger loved to say something unexpected just as his mother was about to hand down punishment.

“That was the type of person my son was. He was just always just trying to make everybody happy and laugh. That was my child. I just don’t know what any of us are going to do without him,” she said.

Pitts, who works in the chaplain’s office at Fort Leavenworth, said she had tried not to worry since he left for Iraq.

“I know that worry will eat you alive. I just tried to keep faith, and I just knew that he was going to be OK and he is OK. He’s in a much better place than any of us.”

Since his departure she has taken comfort in Ecclesiastes 3, which starts with the well-known lines “To every thing there is a season.” About the time of his death — hours before she received word — Pitts said she woke up at an odd hour and was drawn to the passage.

After she was notified of his death, she wondered: Was his spirit there? Did he die at that moment?

She later came to this conclusion about why she was drawn to the passage at that moment: “It basically just says there’s a time to ask questions. There’s a time to let it go. I just believe that God and David were telling me, ‘Let it go,’ ” she said. “I know that David loved us, and he knows that we loved him — nothing else at this point in time matters.”

To reach Dawn Bormann, call (816) 234-5992 or send e-mail to