He was from my congregation in Missouri. I remember him well. He was 6 yrs younger than me.
Rest in peace "Obie".
An Army special operations soldier who grew up riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes in rural Dallas County has died from combat-related injuries he suffered last week in western Iraq.
Sgt. 1st Class Obediah "Obie" Kolath, 32, and three other soldiers were patrolling in Husaybah when a bomb exploded near them, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Kolath of Louisburg was seriously injured and was taken to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. His comrades were killed in the blast.
Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins said the attack occurred shortly after 11 p.m. Iraq time, but she was uncertain if the soldiers were in a vehicle or on foot.
Kolath died Sunday, joining nearly 1,900 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since President Bush ordered the country's invasion in March 2003.
"He was a very brave soldier and a kind-hearted person," said Brian Hudson, Kolath's best friend for 22 years.
Kolath was born Dec. 1, 1972, in Jefferson City and graduated from Skyline High School near Urbana in 1991.
Hudson remembered Kolath wanting nothing more than to become a special forces soldier.
The pair went to the recruiting office together to enlist, but Hudson said a physical problem rendered him ineligible for military service. Kolath wasn't deterred.
"He made that decision when he was about 16 years old," Hudson said. "He could not wait to get in there and start. He never second-guessed himself on it."
Kolath entered the Army on March 10, 1992, as a fire support specialist and was later assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment in Germany.
The young soldier was soon serving with airborne special forces units and traveling the globe for various assignments.
Lloyd Kolath II, 45, said his little brother was stationed in Hawaii, Japan and Thailand before joining the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., where the 13-year veteran had hoped to retire after 20 years of service.
Lloyd Kolath said he and his eight siblings were raised in a trailer without television — an upbringing he called a "backwoods kind of living." When the family was temporarily without running water, Lloyd said he and Obie went out to fetch the necessity.
"I always felt like we were the dynamic duo when we were together," said Lloyd, who lives in Cookville, Tenn., with his wife and five children.
Kolath's parents were devout Jehovah's Witnesses who were displeased when he joined the armed forces.
"They were not happy about his decision, but they accepted his decision," Lloyd recalled. "And he respected their views on the issue, too."
Out of respect for his mother's beliefs, Kolath left specific instructions that he would forgo military honors at his funeral, Lloyd said. Arrangements are still pending, but Lloyd said his brother will be buried in Buffalo.
Kolath's nephew, Jesse Brewer, said his uncle inspired him to join the Army in 2000.
"Obie was the type of person you would be around and he would make you feel great about yourself," said Brewer, a police officer in Okmulgee, Okla. "He believed in me where I sometimes doubted myself."
Brewer, who was deployed to Afghanistan in November 2003 for a yearlong tour, said his uncle's death was especially shocking because family members weren't sure he was even in Iraq.
"I don't think he wanted anybody to worry ... so he didn't tell too many people," he said.
But family members worried anyway, Lloyd Kolath said.
"That was the one fear in all of our hearts," he said.
Kolath has been posthumously recommended for the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Purple Heart.
He is survived by three daughters from two relationships, one of which ended in divorce.