Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tucson GI made it through Iraq duty, died in barracks

Published: 09.11.2009

By Carol Ann Alaimo

The Army is investigating the death of a Tucson soldier who survived a war, only to be claimed by an apparent illness back at his home base.
Spc. Nathan Spangenberg, 21, was found dead in his room at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on Tuesday, a few days after he told loved ones by phone that he wasn't feeling well, family members said.
It isn't clear when he died, they said. Because of the holiday weekend, the soldier wasn't noticed missing until he failed to report for work on Tuesday.
Spangenberg, an infantryman, returned in February from a 15-month tour in Iraq with the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, his family said.
Loved ones who rejoiced when he came home from the war safely were stunned to see Army officers at their doorstep Wednesday.
"You worry so much while they're gone and then he comes home and you think you can stop worrying. And now this," said the soldier's girlfriend, Aleisa Krug, 19, of Tucson, a student at Arizona State University.
Nathan's mother, Lois Spangenberg, a northwest-side resident, said her son called her from Hawaii late last week and said he had strep throat. He also said he was undergoing more medical tests because he had blood and protein in his urine, she said.
He told his mother he planned to stay in his barracks for the weekend to watch movies and rest.
That was their last conversation. When she came home Wednesday from her job at Sunquest Information Systems, men in uniform were waiting for her.
"It's so hard to believe," she said. "It's hard not knowing what happened."
She said officials told her the investigation could take some time, and they couldn't immediately say when her son's body would be returned to Tucson.
Army officials couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday.
Nathan was the baby of the Spangenberg clan, and the family clown, his mother said.
After he deployed to Iraq in late 2007, he sent home a string of comical photos, she said. In one, the soldier is sitting on his bunk in Iraq, holding up a sign that says "I (heart) my Mommy."
In another, taken as he marked his 20th birthday in Iraq, he's in full battle gear wearing a cone-shaped birthday hat atop his helmet.
"He really cared about people. He was a very giving and loving person and a lot of fun," his mother said.
"His friends would all describe him as a person who could make them laugh."
The soldier attended Mountain View High School from 2004 to 2006, then transferred to Mountain Rose Academy, a charter school, before earning a general equivalency diploma. He joined the military in 2007.
He is the fifth service member with ties to Mountain View High School to die since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
He also worked for a time as a custodian at Casas Adobes Baptist Church, his mother said.
Nathan Spangenberg also is survived by his brother Colin, 23, his sister Megan Bette, 26, and a niece and a nephew. His father, Glenn, died of cancer when the soldier was 4 years old.
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.

Lois suggests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project