As war ends, Clovis family searches for closure

CLOVIS, Calif.

While watching our first embedded reports from the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard's family back home in Clovis, CA had very mixed emotions.

"There was an excitement that was kind of positive along with the anxiety of what could happen," Jeff Hubbard said.

His son Jared was one of the first Americans to cross into Iraq that night and into Baghdad less than a month later to a generally positive reception by Iraqis.

His unit, Second Battalion, 5th Marine unit was one of the first combat units to come home that same summer when the much of the country thought the war was winding down.

"I really think I was more realistic than the rest of the country how long it would take but still didn't think it would take this long," Jeff said.

Jared Hubbard and his high school teammate Jeremiah Baro went back with for a second tour of duty in 2004 with Second Battalion, 5th Marines as a sniper team.

They were killed together in an ambush in Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni Triangle.

"When I opened the door and there are three Marines in full dress, that didn't mean anything but one thing," Jeff said.

"They went to school together, they went in the Marines together and they went to war together and now we'll bury them together," Peggy Hubbard said.

Their deaths and the national coverage of their joint funeral on Veterans Day 2004 also marked the gradual shift in American's feelings about the war.

Except for the Hubbard family, especially their youngest son Nathan.

"No, it hasn't changed my thought of the war or anything, it's still the same thing," Nathan said. "I did lose somebody extremely close to me and I wish it didn't have to be that way, but it did."

Shortly after the interview with Nathan during the funeral, he and oldest brother Jason enlisted together in the Army.

"We just tried to be honest and tell them everything we could about how we were feeling; one that it scared us, one that they didn't have to, one that the family had already done enough," Jeff said.

Nathan and thirteen other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash outside of Baghdad in 2007.

His older brother Jason escorted his remains home to another emotionally charged military funeral in Clovis, where the war was hitting closer to home than most places.

In addition to the Hubbard brothers, Buchanan High School and the Clovis School District have lost a total of 11 former students since the war began. They have created their own memorial for a war and some of its casualties they grew up with.

"They identify with kids that actually walked their hallways, sat in their classrooms and made a decision to go in and to have ended their lives so young, you know, really sacrificing it that way, that's really when it hits home," the school's principal said.

As the last of the American forces leave Iraq and both governments make their respective cases about the war, Peggy Hubbard can't bear to even talk about it anymore. Her husband still follows the news in an attempt better understand what might have been accomplished.

"A war is a terrible way to have to get anything done, but I hope that we got something done over there that ends up being positive and good for the country and the world," Jeff said.

Like the past eight holiday seasons, thoughts of peace on earth and tidings of comfort and joy are tempered by Clovis' disproportionate losses in Iraq, which will now end with the American withdrawal.

For the Hubbard family, the emotional rollercoaster ride that was their war in Iraq continues with Jason, their only surviving son. He was discharged from the Army and is being treated for PTSD.

"Nothing can give you closure on the death of your kids; you're not suppose to bury your kids, nothing really closes that," Jeff said.

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