A 20-year-old graduate of Mountain View High School was killed in an explosion in Iraq on Wednesday, leaving Bend to mourn the young man whom friends called intelligent, quiet and dedicated to serving his country.
Spc. Zachary McBride, an infantry scout deployed in Iraq, enlisted in the Army in July 2005 shortly after graduating from Mountain View. Since enlisting, he had spent time in both Germany and Iraq.
McBride’s parents, Marshall and Laurie, were told their son was killed around noon Wednesday in Diyala province, Iraq. McBride was killed along with five other soldiers by an explosive device detonated in a booby-trapped building during a house-to-house search, according to a news release from the Oregon National Guard. Family spokesman Roger Austin said a military spokesperson who visited the home Thursday evening told the family an investigation was ongoing and a full report of McBride’s death might not be available for seven days.
The blast also killed a military interpreter, and military officials confirmed that the explosion took place while soldiers were clearing a building, according to The New York Times and other news reports.
Diyala Province runs north and east of Baghdad to the Iranian border, and thousands of former officers of Saddam Hus-sein’s army reportedly live there, as well as members of 25 tribes. Beginning Tuesday, about 4,000 Iraqi and U.S. forces and their warplanes and helicopters moved into the Diyala river valley to attack al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix.
At least nine soldiers have been killed since the Diyala offensive started Tuesday.
The McBride family moved to Bend from Oak Harbor, Wash., in 2002, when McBride, who was born in New York City, was a sophomore in high school. After arriving in Bend, the family maintained close ties with members of their church and school in Oak Harbor.
“Their whole family was very active in school and church,” said Lynette Wright, a secretary for the Oak Harbor Christian School.
McBride’s father, Marshall, was a pastor at First Reformed Church of Oak Harbor, overseeing music and worship and teaching band classes at the school. News of Zachary’s death had reached the school through friends by Thursday afternoon.
“I know it was a great loss to our community,” she said.
McBride attended fifth through eighth grades at Oak Harbor Christian School.
Zachary’s fifth-grade teacher told Wright the boy loved computers even as a child and was “exceptional” intellectually — and also humble.
“She described him as having a godly character,” Wright said.
He went on to attend a local high school and then started home schooling.
Oak Harbor is “all mixed together” with Whidbey Island’s Naval Air Station, Wright said, but she never noticed McBride having an interest in the military as a child.
“I know when we found out he was going into the Army, we were kind of surprised,” she said.
At Mountain View, McBride excelled in academics, particularly science, according to teacher Ana Ebeling. She currently teaches McBride’s sister, Sarah, and taught McBride over a two-year period in chemistry, forensic science and Advanced Placement chemistry.
Ebeling said behind McBride’s quiet exterior was an intelligent, witty student. She described him as a careful and dedicated A-student who always had his work done and who always had the answer, even if he didn’t offer it up right away. Passionate about science, McBride was particularly interested when the time came to study ballistics in Ebeling’s forensic science class.
“With his brains, he really could have gotten scholarships to go anywhere,” she said. “But his desire, he had so much passion about serving our country. That was all he wanted to do.”
But military wasn’t McBride’s only interest.
John Lodwick, the senior pastor at Eastmont Church in Bend, knows the McBride family well. McBride’s father, Marshall, has worked as the worship pastor at the church for five years.
“Zach was involved in our youth group; he went on mission trips with our youth,” Lodwick said. “When we had work parties around the church, and we would do things around the church, he would help with that.”
Everyone interviewed described McBride as a quiet and intelligent person, and Lodwick said he loved working with children.
On his Facebook account, McBride described himself as single, a Christian and a Libertarian, and listed among his favorite television shows “South Park,” “Family Guy” and “The Colbert Report.”
According to Lodwick, McBride had many close friends from his church.
At Mountain View, Ebeling said McBride participated in cross country and track as well as nordic skiing.
After joining the Army in 2005, Ebeling said, McBride scored so high on his entrance exam that the Army encouraged him to specialize.
“But he wanted to be a soldier,” Ebeling said. “And a soldier he was.”
Ebeling kept tabs on McBride after he graduated through his sister, Sarah, a 17-year-old sen-ior. She provided updates on her brother, including his visit back to Bend in November.
”It’s just tragic,” Lodwick said. “It’s a loss that I don’t think parents ever fully recover from. I know God can help deal with it, and I know God is helping his parents handle this, but that’s a loss that won’t ever be fully recovered from.”
According to Lodwick, the family was notified Wednesday afternoon that McBride had been killed in action. McBride’s parents declined to comment about their son on Thursday, choosing instead to speak through Austin, who knows the McBrides through Eastmont Church.
“I would say they are a very tightknit family,” Austin said. “They’ve had endless, overwhelming support; they’re almost drowning from it ... it’s their worst nightmare come true, and they loved him deeply.”
Maj. Anne Edgecomb, a spokeswoman for the Army, said the U.S. Department of Defense waits until the family of each soldier has been notified before releasing information about multiple casualties.
“We don’t release it officially just out of respect for the families,” she said.
As of late Thursday, the Department of Defense had not released the names of any of the nine soldiers killed this week.
According to Mountain View Assistant Principal Sean Corri-gan, the school notified teachers by e-mail on Thursday of McBride’s death. Teachers will read an announcement during first period today, and McBride’s death will also be announced over the public address system. Counseling will be available to grieving students.
On Thursday afternoon, cars clustered in the McBrides’ driveway and along their street in northeast Bend. Their neighborhood is just across Neff Road from Eastmont Church.
Neighbor Rob Hartsock, who also attends Eastmont, said he did not know McBride well but had heard only good things about him.
“I’d point to my 7-year-old son and say, ‘Look to Zach McBride. He’s a hero and a role model,’” Hartsock said.