A University of New Haven forensic science graduate student serving in the U.S. Army reserves was killed in Iraq last Saturday, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Sgt. David Travis Friedrich, 26, of Hammond, N.Y., died when mortars hit a U.S. base near the Abu Ghraib prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad at about 10 p.m. Saturday. Thirteen other soldiers were injured in the attack and no soldiers were injured, said Sgt. Richard Lambert, a spokesman for the Army.
His death brought the number of American troops killed since the Iraq war began to 304, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Friedrich was serving in the B Company of the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion of the Waterbury-based U.S. Army Reserve. He was deployed Feb. 15 and was fighting with the Wiesbaden, Germany-based 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.
Friedrich worked full-time at MacDermid Laboratory in Waterbury and was taking night classes at UNH to earn a master’s degree in forensic science. He worked under world-renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee at UNH, which has one of the nation’s top forensics programs.
“He wanted to be a forensics investigator — he loved Dr. Lee,” his mother Elizabeth Friedrich said. “He was so thrilled to be able to meet him. I think Dr. Lee was a role model for him.”
While studying in New Haven, Friedrich rented a room between 2000 and 2001 in the Seymour home of Shirley Sandora, 75, before getting his own apartment in Waterbury. Describing Friedrich as a tall, handsome blond who was “thin as a matchstick,” Sandora said he would walk her dogs daily and was well-liked by their neighbors.
“He was a wonderful person, very private, very quiet,” she said. “He used to mow my lawn once a week and the heavy work I had he would tell me to leave it for him to do. He was immaculate. He had quite a few pairs of boots and he put a carpet underneath his bed in order to keep water from getting on the floor. He was that considerate.”
An avid runner, Friedrich played on the cross country and track teams at Gouverneur High School in upstate New York. An Aerosmith and Led Zepplin fan, Friedrich loved tuna casserole and asked for the dish every year for his birthday dinner, his mother said.
“I remember one time he was in 12th grade and heard Louis Armstrong on the radio and he got really excited about that and went out to get some Louis Armstrong CDs,” Elizabeth Friedrich said. “He went to see ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ and he loved it. As we were leaving the theater he said ‘I wonder if you can buy the soundtrack to that movie’ and the soundtrack to that movie got the Oscar that year. He had a good ear for things.”
An “A” student in high school, Friedrich went on to study criminal justice and chemistry at Brockport (N.Y.) State College where he was co-captain of the cross-country team his senior year. Elizabeth Friedrich said her son’s commitment to sports represented the kind of person he was.
“He would set a goal for himself and go about achieving it,” she said.
Elizabeth Friedrich said she was scared when her son was called into duty earlier this year, but said he son “wasn’t a complainer” and considered his time in Iraq a learning experience.
“He talked about the weather, how hot it was,” she said. “It went up to 140 degrees at some times and he said that the daily life was kind of difficult. He was working in military intelligence and they were doing investigations and they were questioning people so he tried to see it as good for his future. You take a bad thing and turn it into a good thing.”