Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Nicholas C Mason

King George, Virginia

December 21, 2004

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
20 Army Spc

Army National Guard's 276th Engineer Battalion

West Point, Virginia

Died in Mosul, Iraq, when their dining facility was attacked.
From Vic Mason (In Remembrance):

Nicholas Mason had a theory that "the only tool a real man needs is a roll of duct tape." "I wondered if he'd have a case of duct tape shipped to Iraq to help fix things," said the Rev. Richard Finck, who baptized him. In fact, Mason helped "uparmor" his comrades' military vehicles to protect them. In tribute, many wore ribbons made from the silver electrical tape to his memorial service. Mason, 20, of King George, Va., was killed Dec. 21 in the suicide bombing in a mess tent in Mosul, Iraq. He was based in Richmond, Va. Mason, who went by the name Nick, was a volunteer firefighter and a competitive wrestler and runner. He signed up for the military when he was still in high school and attended National Guard training once a month while completing his freshman year at Virginia Tech. He planned to resume his studies after returning from Iraq. He is survived by his parents, Vic and Christine Mason. "His life is gone, but his strength and spirit will always be with us,"

From Richmond Virginia Times-Dispatch TimesDispatch.com 12/22/05:

CONFLICT IN IRAQ: Tears of sorrow and pride
Monument unveiled at West Point armory to 2 slain guardsmen


Dec 22, 2005

A monument honoring two guardsmen from Virginia who died in a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, on Dec. 21, 2004, was unveiled yesterday at a ceremony in West Point. DEAN HOFFMEYER/TIMES-DISPATCH
A monument honoring two guardsmen from Virginia who died in a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, on Dec. 21, 2004, was unveiled yesterday at a ceremony in West Point.

WEST POINT -- Tears glistened in winter sunlight yesterday as a National Guard unit honored its first war dead by unveiling a monument dedicated to two men killed in a suicide bomber's attack a year ago in Iraq.

Nicholas C. Mason of King George County and David Ruhren of Stafford County were 20 years old. Both were posthumously promoted to sergeant. And both would have returned to that violence-torn country, speakers said, if only they could have been given another chance.

"Not a day that goes by that I don't tell God I want my baby back," Christine Mason said, choking back tears as she completed an address to the crowd of Guard members and civilians at the West Point armory.

But she praised her son's fellow soldiers for inspiring him during his short time in the Guard.

"They say you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps -- just look around," she said motioning to the crowd and its uniformed members.
Bond with colleagues

Mason said she and her husband, Vic, had to delude themselves during Nicholas' deployment to keep from worrying about him all the time. Now, she said, they still fool themselves, for a different reason: "We had to pretend he wasn't there [in Iraq]," she said, "and, sometimes, [now] we have to pretend he is still there."

Sonya Ruhren stood by while a chief warrant officer read what she had written for her son, David, who was her only child.

"I don't even have the strength to pretend," said Chief Warrant Officer Joanne Smith, reading Ruhren's letter to her son. "I keep hearing there is supposed to be this magical healing process. Well, it's been a year and I wish someone [could] tell me when I can breathe again."

But Ruhren's letter clearly expressed the bonds that David Ruhren made with his fellow Guard members, who attended the ceremony with a mixture of gratitude and sorrow on their faces.

Her son's fellow soldiers "love and respect you," her letter read, "but, they have no idea how much they inspired you."
Mosul suicide attack

The two men died in a suicide attack in Mosul, Iraq, that blew apart a mess tent on Dec. 21, 2004. The blast killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. troops, and injured 70 people.

Ruhren and Mason joined the Fredericksburg-based 229th Engineer Battalion shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They journeyed to Iraq as members of West Point's Company C of the 276th Engineer Battalion on its first oversees deployment.

The unit built roads, restored power to villages, destroyed weapons caches and defended a bridge during fighting, company commander 1st Lt. Beau Mason, who is not related to Nicholas, said after the ceremony.

Sgt. Sean Crippen, of White Stone in Lancaster County, roomed with David Ruhren during their time in Iraq and was walking toward the mess tent when the bomb exploded.

"It looked like the inside of a grill," it was so charred, he recalled.

Yesterday, he joined six other guardsmen for one last gesture in their lost friends' memory.

The seven men lined up in dress uniforms and fired their M-16 rifles three times for the traditional 21-gun salute.

"It was an honor," Crippen said.

Contact staff writer Lawrence Latané III at llatane@timesdispatch.com or (804) 333-3461.

From Richmond Virginia Times-Dispatch TimesDispatch.com 12/25/04:

Slain Va. soldiers recalled
Close comrades had turned 20 this year


Dec 25, 2004

* Mission: Mosul

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq - Spc. Nicholas Mason disliked military rations, so he often loaded up on salami sandwiches at the mess tent.

Mason, who lived in King George County, Va., stuffed them in the trucks he drove for round-the-clock snacks.

He was stocking up on sandwiches in the mess tent Tuesday afternoon when a suicide bomber exploded nearby, killing him and 21 others.

His squad leader, Staff Sgt. Joel Miller, had the grim task of identifying Mason's body in the chaos that followed. Mason was not wearing his dog tags, so Miller searched him for his military identification. What he found hit home.

"I had to go through his pants to get his ID, and all I kept finding was fricking sandwiches everywhere," Miller said.

The blast also killed Mason's friend, Spc. David Ruhren of Stafford County. And it seriously wounded another friend, Spc. Richard Hursh of Fredericksburg.

Three fellow Virginia National Guardsmen from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion were also wounded: Sgt. Douglas McManama, 32, of Sandston; Sgt. Kyle Wright, 46, of Richlands; and Sgt. Brian Lindley, 37, of Cumberland. McManama and Wright have returned to duty. Lindley is recovering from a fractured elbow in a hospital in Germany and will eventually return to the States.

Mason, Ruhren and Hursh were together in the mess tent Tuesday, gathering food in preparation for a long night mission. They were planning to block insurgents from using a bridge in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Miller dwelled on his soldiers after spending many hours guarding the bridge spanning the Tigris River. He sank into a low chair in his dimly lit hut, his face still ruddy from the chilly morning air. His squad had taken a big hit. And Miller was feeling it. His lips quivered with emotion.

"The hardest part of my job is to be a rock," he said.

Mason, Ruhren and Hursh had all turned 20 this year. They frequently hung out and played a popular multiplayer combat video game called Halo.

Fellow soldiers nicknamed Mason "Smiley" because of his sunny demeanor. And they poked fun at him for wearing extra-tight Under Armour pants.

Mason knew everyone, they said, and could acquire just about any supplies needed on base. They also credited him with saving soldiers' lives through his skills welding armor onto vehicles. He had just completed a year of study at Virginia Tech and was interested in joining the military's special forces, Miller said.

Ruhren was mellow and went by the nickname "Rerun." He was known as the best .50-caliber machine gunner in the battalion. An only child, he lived with his mother and worked as an emergency medical technician, Miller said.

"It was just the two of them. He was definitely the man of the house," Miller said, worrying how Ruhren's mother will cope.

Miller said Hursh was the quietest of the three. He is built like a bulldog, Miller said, and had just completed a year of studying civil engineering at Old Dominion University before his deployment. He is recovering in a military hospital in Germany and will not be returning to duty, a senior officer from the 276th said.

"I try needling the guys, but I could never get a rise out of Hursh. I could never set him off," Miller said. Officers considered Miller's squad the best-disciplined in the battalion. Miller received the Army Combat Engineer Sergeant award for his leadership this year.

"When it hit the fan, they were true professionals," said their platoon leader, Lt. Edward Lewis, a stocky Fredericksburg resident with short blond hair and light green eyes. "I would put them up against any of these active-duty guys any day. Every single one of them wanted to be here and do their part."

Lewis thought deeply about his men after returning with Miller from the long, cold bridge mission. He sat in a briefing room, reclining in a red plastic lawn chair. He kept his emotions in check. But no matter how warm he got sitting inside, he still felt numb.

Contact Jeremy Redmon at missionmosul@timesdispatch.com

From Kim Green 12/21/05:

A solemn prayer of remembrance

Lord, I give you thanks for returning the members of
the 276 home safely to their families and friends. 
But Lord this is also a day of solemn pride and
remembrance for the members of C Company for it was
one year ago today that their comrades were taken from
them. Lord I ask that you be with the families of
Sgt. Mason and Sgt. Ruhren in their time of grief. 
Please be with members of C Company as they grieve the
loss of their fellow soldiers and friends. Help these
men cherish the time they spent with Sgt. Mason and
Sgt. Ruhren. Let Sgt. Mason and Sgt. Ruhren be
remembered for how they touched the lives of their
fellow soldiers and so many others in their short time
on Earth. May their memories live on in the hearts of
men who served alongside them. Lord, help all of us
not to forget the sacrifice that these men have made
for their country and for the Iraqi people. I ask
this in your name. Amen

From Stars & Stripes 12/02/06:

Iraqi man sentenced to die for his role in chow hall bombing

By Joseph Giordono, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, December 2, 2006

An Iraqi man who confessed to a role in the December 2004 bombing of a U.S. military chow hall near Mosul has been convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi court, officials said Friday.

The man — whose name and age were not released — was convicted after confessing to producing a videotape of the suicide attack which killed 18 servicemembers and injured more than 30 others at Forward Operating Base Marez. The man was captured during a targeted raid, U.S. military officials said, and was convicted by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, where U.S. servicemembers are often called as witnesses against the suspected insurgents they arrest.

The verdict was one of 41 reached by the court in the final two weeks of November and announced on Friday.

Among the other cases, a Sudanese man was found guilty of illegally entering Iraq to join a terrorist organization. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, officials said.

Another case involved an Iraqi man who was arrested after U.S. troops took fire from his vehicle; when the man was caught, a search of his vehicle turned up a large weapons cache including bomb-making materials. He was sentenced to 15 years.

In another verdict, three Iraqi brothers were found guilty of illegal weapons possession and each was sentenced to 15 years in prison. During a raid of their house, U.S. troops found pieces — including the camera — of an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that had crashed. Along with the UAV parts, which the three were trying to sell, the troops found weapons and propaganda.

Since it was established in April 2004, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq has been the venue for 1,740 trials of suspected insurgents. Of those, 1,501 cases resulted in convictions.

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