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Friday, July 28, 2006

War injuries hit families, communities hard

Specialist Ray Hubbard celebrated his first wedding anniversary June 25. Later that day he returned to Iraq. Nine days later, on July 4, he was injured by a mortar explosion.

With the war in Iraq becoming increasingly violent, the chances that soldiers we know will fall in harm's way becomes increasingly unavoidable.

In Walworth County, where communities are small and tightly knit, when a soldier is injured, it hits close to home.

Allens Grove, where Hubbard lives with his wife, Sarah, and sons, Brady and Reily, is in Sharon Township, which has a population of under 1,000.

Raymond's brother-in-law, Rob Wobig, of Delavan first met Hubbard when Hubbard was 8 years old. Sandi Wobig, Raymond's sister, says Raymond's injuries have been difficult on everyone.

Raymond Hubbard is just the latest soldier with close ties to Walworth County who has been injured while on duty.

PFC John Koch, a 19-year-old Whitewater resident, was injured March 26 of this year when his unit was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

His unit had been assisting other soldiers whose vehicle had been struck by an improvised explosive device, when their own group was struck by the grenade.

Specialist Jordan West, a Darien native, was perched atop his Humvee while on patrol Jan. 23 of this year when a roadside bomb exploded.

He took shrapnel to the face and neck in the attack.

In September of 2004, Chris Cook of Elkhorn sustained multiple fractures to his left leg, a broken right ankle and bomb shrapnel in his face and elsewhere when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle.

Then there's Justin Linden, whose mother lives in Elkhorn, who was killed in Iraq June 4 of 2004. He was one of five soldiers attacked by assailants with an improvised explosive device and rocket-propelled grenades.

In each of these cases, friends and family have pulled together, while those in the community have reached out to help.

Through all of this, one group continues to provide support to local service members serving in war zones.

Organized by the Walworth County Council of the American Legion, the group has held a weekly vigil at the Walworth County Courthouse each Monday at 11 a.m. where they read the names of local service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each week, they remember Linden, the only soldier with county ties to be killed in the current conflict.

Members of the group held their 83rd rally this past Monday, according to Bob Webster Sr., one of the rally organizers.

Currently, there are 35 troops with local ties serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Webster.

In addition to the rally, Legion members have sent things like pre-paid phone cards, care packages and small American flags to troops overseas.

As writer Donna Lenz Wright reports in this week's cover story, a fundraiser is in the works for the Hubbard family. We'll include an update as soon as the details are worked out.

For more information on the weekly rally at the courthouse, contact Bob Webster Sr. at (262) 275-6587.

~Dan Plutchak, editor

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