Toms River parents mourn son killed in Iraq helicopter crash
The Associated Press
TOMS RIVER, N.J. — Marine Cpl. Thomas Saba could have been discharged in April.
Instead, he chose to extend his tour with the Marines so he could serve with his comrades in Iraq — a decision that ultimately led to his death Feb. 7, just two weeks after he arrived in the country.
“He didn’t have to go to Iraq. He chose to go. He wanted to be with his brothers,” Barbara Saba, the Marine’s mother and a Toms River resident, told the Staten Island Advance.
In a separate interview with the Asbury Park Press, Saba said her 30-year-old son was also an “absolutely fantastic son, brother and uncle.”
Saba was with four other Marines and two Navy personnel on a helicopter mission to evacuate casualties when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter went down, Sgt. Douglas Paul of the Marines’ 6th Motor Transport Battalion in Red Bank told the Asbury Park Press.
As of the afternoon of Feb. 10, the U.S. Department of Defense had not officially identified Saba as one of the victims in the crash in Al Anbar province.
News of the crash came at the same time that an insurgent group linked to al-Qaida posted a Web video showing what it said was the downing of the helicopter.
Anthony and Barbara Saba said they last spoke to their son on the telephone Feb. 4 while they were visiting central Florida, which had been ravaged by tornadoes days before.
“He was worried about us,” Barbara Saba told the Press.
“And there he was in Iraq,” said her husband, Anthony.
Thomas Saba lived most of his life in Staten Island, where he grew up and graduated from Susan Wagner High School, but he stayed at his parents’ Toms River home for about four to five months before starting boot camp in 2002.
Thomas Saba’s aunt, Sonja Debs, told the Staten Island Advance that she had tried, and failed, to dissuade her nephew from going to Iraq.
“It was something he wanted to do. He said, ‘Do you want 9/11 to happen again? I’m going to fight for my country,’ ” Debs said.
Along with his parents, Thomas Saba is survived by a brother and two sisters.