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Tom Sileo's op-ed column: The Unknown Soldiers (The Click)
Nathaniel DeTample, 19, was killed in Iraq
Courtesy of Kim DeTample
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ATLANTA--Every time her 19-year-old son would call from Iraq, Kim DeTample would hear a distinctive sound before his voice.
"I would know it was him because there was a click a delayed response because of where he was," Kim told The Unknown Soldiers. "I remember the click of the phone to this day."
After Pfc. Nathaniel DeTample arrived in Bayji, Iraq, an industrial city about 130 miles north of Baghdad, in May 2005, he told his mother about the country's inexorable heat.
"He told me to put my face up against a blow dryer," she said. "That's how hot it was."
Despite the harsh conditions, Pfc. DeTample was fulfilling a lifelong dream by serving his country.
"When he was a little guy, about 3 years old, he got his first buzz cut," the soldier's mother said. "From that day on, he always had that buzz cut."
Nate, as his mother calls him, joined the Boy Scouts at age 10, where he excelled and eventually attained the top rank of Eagle Scout. He also starred on the wrestling mat.
"He was a real determined young man," Kim said.
During his junior year of high school, Nate, whose father and grandfathers served in the military, committed to joining the National Guard.
"He believed in our country," his mother said. "He was one of the little kids who'd always stand for the Pledge of Allegiance."
After graduating high school, the eastern Pennsylvania native enrolled at Shippensburg University, near Harrisburg. But as other freshmen adjusted to college life, including the party scene, Nate's country came calling.
"I remember when he called and said he might need to report within 24 hours," Kim said. "That drive out [to Shippensburg] to pick him up, I felt like my son was going off to war."