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Minnesota soldier killed in Iraq remembered for bravery

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Mary and Scott Vanderbosch recall memories of their son, Jacob, who was killed in Iraq. (MPR Photo/Greta Cunningham)
A Vadnais Heights soldier is the latest Minnesotan to die in the war in Iraq. The parents of Army Specialist Jacob Vanderbosch, 21, say they're remembering their son's bravery and are grateful for the other soldiers still fighting in Iraq.

Vadnais Heights, Minn. — Jacob Vanderbosch was one of three soldiers killed October 3, when a bomb exploded near his Humvee along the Euphrates River.

Jacob's mother, Mary Vanderbosch, says her son was fearless. She saw Jacob for the last time in August at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, right before he was being deployed to Iraq.

"We were hugging and affectionate and we're telling him how much we're worried about him and to be careful. And he said, 'Mom, don't worry about me. Everything is going to be fine.' And I said, 'Jake, if I could write down the number of times you told me that. Every time things were going to happen.' He was so brave. He was a wild little kid. And I'd say, 'Jake..,' and he would say, 'Mom, don't worry.' He was such an optimist... he always believed things were going to be fine," she said.

His father, Scott, says the family last spoke to Jacob at 4 Monday morning, the day he died. Jacob was a gunner on a Humvee and told them he was heading out on a 22-day mission. Four and a half hours into his mission, his Humvee was hit and he was killed.

Jacob Vanderbosch signed up for the Army two years ago. His family says he was hoping to save up some money for college and was looking for some direction in his life. His father says Jacob was also seeking discipline. Scott Vanderbosch says his son gave him "a few grey hairs" but he was a good kid. He remembers a deal he made with Jacob to improve his grades in high school.

"I said, 'if you guys can get on the A-honor roll, we'll go on a little trip somewhere in the country.' Jake was never a great student. But the first quarter of 9th grade guess who gets on the honor roll? Jake. When he could focus, he could do anything. He was a smart kid. He just couldn't sit still," he said.

Mary Vanderbosch says she's grateful for the memories she has of Jacob's last visit home to Minnesota in July. She says her son made it a point to spend some special time with every family member. He went fishing with his dad, and golfed with his brothers, Joe, 24, and Ryan, 17. He took his mother and sister Jennie, 14, to the movies. His mother says he also was sure to spend time visiting his grandfather in his cabin.

Mary Vanderbosch says the official Army photograph of Jacob does not capture her son's real spirit.

"When you look at that Army picture of him from boot camp, you see that sober face and that wasn't Jake. Jake had the cutest little grin. He was always smiling and seemed to be never crabby," she said.

Mary and Scott Vanderbosch did not want to discuss the politics of the war in Iraq. But they say they want to make sure Americans are aware of the bravery and sacrifices soliders are making in Iraq.

"I just hope people... they realize how brave these kids are. It's not a number. It's a family behind it. You know they always say 'these are America's best.' Really when you meet them, they are. You don't understand the bravery," Scott Vanderbosch said.

Jacob Vanderbosch is a 2002 graduate of White Bear Lake High School. He is the 27th Minnesotan to die as a result of injuries sustained in the Mideast during the Iraq war.

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