CLOVIS, Calif. – A father who lost a second son last week in the Iraq war said Thursday the support his family has received has helped them sustain their belief in the United States' efforts to combat global terrorism.
"The nation's at war," said Jeff Hubbard, the soldier's father, a retired police officer. "We just want people to support the nation and what it's trying to get accomplished by making the world a better place."
Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, 21, died Aug. 22 in a helicopter crash. He had enlisted at age 19 while still grieving for his older brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi in 2004.
A third brother, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard, 33, was part of the platoon that recovered Nathan's body from the crash site. After Nathan's death, Jason was sent home from his unit and was ordered not to redeploy to a hostile fire zone.
Both brothers were in the same platoon on a scouting mission observing a treacherous stretch of road south of Kirkuk, Iraq, the day of the crash, the surviving son said. Jason's team left the area in a Black Hawk first; another soldier aboard that helicopter saw from the air that the second aircraft had crashed.
"We kind of went into a holding pattern over this downed bird," Jason Hubbard told reporters, his voice steady. "It was at that point where I began to really fear that was the other helicopter that picked up our team."
His team was then assigned to return to the desert and secure the crash site, which meant removing weapons, equipment and the bodies of their comrades from the wreckage.
"I couldn't participate in that," said Jason, wearing his dress uniform. "I knew Nathan was in there. I tried several times to kind of gather myself, but I just, I couldn't."
On Wednesday, their parents, Jeff and Peggy Hubbard, led a procession of cars to a Clovis funeral home after a flag-draped casket carrying Nathan Hubbard's remains arrived at a Fresno-Yosemite International Airport.
Jeff Hubbard lost his composure for a moment Thursday as he asked mourners who knew his youngest son to remember him as a thoughtful athlete who graced the lives of those around him.
"He was not an intense guy," his father said. "Everything about him was soft. He wanted to help people."
After Jared's death, the couple were conflicted when their two surviving sons announced they wanted to enlist, in part to heal from the loss of their brother. They were proud, but they wanted to make sure the sons were doing it for the right reasons and understood the risks, he said.
Nathan's mother and sister Heidi, 31, did not participate in the interview.
Since learning of their youngest son's death, the family has been through moments of absolute physical and emotional devastation, Jeff Hubbard said, but they were trying to "rejoin the human race" even as they grieved.
Throughout the week, friends and acquaintances have organized candlelight vigils, delivered meals and posted prayers on Nathan's MySpace page, hoping to ease their pain at losing a son all recalled as a lighthearted spirit.
"The military tries to change people a little bit, and make them a certain way to fit their mold," Jason said. "He wouldn't break. He was still Nate."