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Middle East

Officials confirm death of Pa. soldier

| Saturday, April 5, 2003

HARBORCREEK -- The human toll of the war in Iraq came home to this modest bedroom community near Erie on Friday as residents learned that one of their own had perished, a young man who had told his father he would never take life for granted again if he returned.

Spc. Donald Samuel Oaks Jr., 20, was killed in Iraq when a bomb dropped on a multilaunch rocket system, according to his father and grandfather, who say they heard from Army officials on Thursday.

The Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that Oaks and two other soldiers from the same unit were killed in action Thursday but did not say how they died, only that "an investigation is ongoing." Also killed were Sgt. 1st Class Randall S. Rehn, 36, of Longmont, Colo., and Sgt. Todd J. Robbins, 33, of Pentwater, Mich.

Oaks' grandfather, Samuel Oaks, had said an F-15 was dropping ordnance in the area when his grandson was killed.

At the home of Oaks' grandparents, friends and family gathered yesterday, many of them bringing food and talking gently as CNN played on a television in the background. Some people cried quietly in the somber split-level home, in which photos of the fallen soldier were displayed on an easel in the living room.

Oaks' father, Donald Sr., remembered the last time he talked to his son, on a call from Kuwait in January. "He said, 'Dad, I'll never take anything for granted again. People don't know what they have in the United States. All I want to do is come home, take a shower, be with my family and go fishing."

Oaks was assigned to C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery Regiment (Multiple Launch Rocket System), and stationed in Fort Sill, Okla.

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