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Army Sgt. Nathan Bouchard, 24, Wildomar; Killed by Bomb in Iraq

Times Staff Writer

“I am a soldier in the United States Army, 21 years old, and [now in Iraq],” begins a letter to the editor published in the Riverside Press-Enterprise in April 2003, signed by a serviceman named Nathan Bouchard.

“You ask, ‘Why, why are we in the Middle East? Why don’t we leave Saddam alone? Why do we even get involved?’.... It is because somebody has to.... Because, as you know, problems do not go away just by closing your eyes or turning your back or burying your head in the sand.

“This freedom we have was not free.”

Bouchard, 24, died in Samarra, Iraq, on Aug. 18 when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee.

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Raised in Wildomar, in Riverside County, Bouchard was on a second and extended tour of duty in Iraq. He enlisted in the Army in May 2002, spurred by patriotic sentiments after the 2001 terrorist attacks, his parents said.

“Nathan believed in what he was doing. He wrote, and he told us about the good things that they were doing in Iraq,” said Alida Bouchard, his mother, from the family’s new home in Cottonwood, Ariz.

Bouchard’s father, John, a longtime Navy serviceman, said his son spoke to them vividly about escorting his commanding officer into Iraqi towns and villages, about talking to community leaders and fulfilling their requests for sanitation pickups and new schools.

“He enjoyed kids especially,” John Bouchard said. “And he enjoyed being over there in the land that was of the Bible -- Samarra -- seeing it firsthand.”

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Nathan Bouchard was born in 1981 in Dallas. He graduated from Lake Elsinore High School in 1999 and was a starting defensive lineman in his senior year.

He surfed, hiked and went mountain biking. Often, Bouchard hiked “in slippers,” which were more comfortable for him, said his father, chuckling.

Bouchard, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in Ft. Stewart, Ga., also was a devout Christian. He was an active member of The Fold, a Christian youth group in Wildomar. He attended Cornerstone Community Church with his family.

Bouchard last saw his parents and siblings in May, when he visited Cottonwood before returning to Iraq. His younger brother, Sean, 21, also is in the Army and was home when the family received news of Nathan’s death.

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A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday at Cornerstone Community Church in Wildomar. The Bouchards said they have received messages of support and condolences from as far away as South Africa, many prompted by their son’s letter to the editor.

They said they would always remember Nathan as a positive-thinking, energetic man who did anything he could for friends and family when he saw them unhappy. Bouchard’s faith, his parents said, continues to give them strength.

“Nathan was a Christian first and a soldier second,” John Bouchard said. “That’s our reassurance -- our peace that we have -- that he was where God wanted him to be.”


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