An improvised explosive device

Remembering Joshua Morberg, a soldier, hero and friend

Tears, silence broken only by sobs and sniffing of two young women in front of a computer.

My daughter Tabbie, 18, pulled Josh’s last e-mail out of her inbox and reread it.

“As for does this war have a point? Fuck no,” the soldier wrote from Baghdad two days before Christmas, four days before his death. “There really is not too much going on except a few gunshots here and there (mainly due to the fact that the ‘good ol’ US’ is here). Mainly however there is a shitload of [improvised explosive devices] out there. We have been here for about 1.5 weeks, and we already got hit with one. Nobody hurt, it hit right behind the tanks. I was way in the front. I am pretty sure that all will be OK, and yes I sure do hope that there will still be many more good times left between us. Miss ya, ttyl.”

“Put it away, Tabbie,” Sarah said. “I can’t look at it.”

Roger, a roommate who’d been staring at a silent TV screen, reached for paper towels. He handed them to the girls.

“I can’t believe this,” Sarah said. “I thought he’d be OK. I didn’t think he’d die. And for what?”

No one tried to answer her question.

“He shouldn’t have been there,” she went on. “He didn’t have any of that macho thing. He just liked to sit on the couch and hang out with friends. And they gave him a gun and said go to Iraq. Why?”

Sarah wanted to turn on the TV. Suddenly, news about the war seemed urgent.

But the story of two soldiers who died in Baghdad Dec. 27 when “an improvised explosive device detonated near their dismounted patrol” barely made a blip on the journalistic radar. It would take more than 24 hours for local media to offer the first account of the death of Pvt. Joshua Morberg, 20, of Sparks.

Tabbie met Josh, a lifeguard at the Sparks Marina, when she was 14. He was a lanky blonde who taught swimming lessons and was great with kids.

When not on duty, Josh dressed in black and shared Tabbie’s love of shopping at Hot Topic. “He was the hot ‘Goth’ guy.” The two attended Reed High in Sparks. They grew close, spending time together talking, listening to music and making art. Josh won awards for computer animation projects while taking classes at the Regional Technical Institute. His future seemed bright.

After graduation in 2004, Josh joined the U.S. Army. He’d only been in Iraq about two weeks when he and another soldier encountered a deadly “improvised explosive device” while on patrol.

My daughter, a Truckee Meadows Community College student, learned of Josh’s death Tuesday night via a message left on her cell phone. Hysteria was followed by silence, then action. Tabbie set up a memorial on a coffee table, a photo surrounded by candles. She played a CD she’s owned since high school, sinking into the couch as Ozzy sang:

“I’m not the kind of person you think I am / I’m not the anti-christ or the iron man / I have a vision that I just can’t control / I feel I’ve lost my spirit and sold my soul / Got no control.”

As I listened, I couldn’t help thinking that if we’d all worked harder to hold this administration accountable, Josh might not have been shipped to Iraq the week before Christmas.

I realized I’ve been overly complacent, an anti-war passivist, rather than activist.

“As for does this war have a point? Fuck no.”

Three other young men arrived, all about Josh’s age, all silently chain-smoking.

Even the cloud of smoke didn’t hide their tears.

Josh, everyone here will miss you. TTYL.