Jeff Hubbard, the retired California police officer who lost two sons in Iraq, spoke to reporters for the first time since the death of his son U.S. Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, who was killed last week in a Blackhawk helicopter crash.
Despite his family's devastating loss, Hubbard told reporters that his support for the country's campaign to combat global terror is undiminished. "We just want people to support the nation in what it's doing to make the world a better place," he said.
Few families can understand the emotional toll of war as well as the Hubbard family of Clovis, Calif. Three of Jeff and Peggy Hubbard's sons have served in Iraq. Two of them died there. Their son U.S. Army Spc. Jason Hubbard was called home from duty after Nathan's death.
"[Nathan's] overall personality was that people gravitated to him because he had an upbeat personality all the time," said Jason, who joined his father at the news conference. "He had a very laid-back, easy view of life."
Nathan and Jason were members of the same platoon in Iraq, and Jason told reporters they worked together "day in and day out."
On the day of the crash, the brothers' platoon had been separated and each group was traveling to and from its mission in separate helicopters.
While Jason's helicopter took off safely, Nathan's wasn't as lucky.
"Thirty seconds into the flight some of my guys noticed that there appeared to be a helicopter on the ground," said Jason. "I knew Nathan was in there."
"In one swift moment, half of my platoon was killed," said Jason, who said he remembers seeing his brother's body getting carried from the aircraft. "I have pictures from Iraq that I look at and every picture you look at there are 10 of us in it and five or six of them are dead. It's hard. It's extremely hard."
Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004 while working as a part of a two-man sniper team.
Jason and Nathan had enlisted just nine months after Jared was killed, and told a local newspaper at the time that they were serving on behalf of their brother.
"We are getting on with our lives," Nathan told the Fresno Bee in a 2005 interview. "My brother — my parents' son — will always be in our hearts, and we'll always remember him and we'll always think of him and all that, but we've got to move on, and that's what we are doing."
He added that he was not afraid to die.
"People are going to be hurt, and people are going to be killed," Nathan told the paper. "That is a reality you have to accept, but not dwell on."
Today, Jason reiterated the reasons he and his brother decided to serve in Iraq.
"When Jared died, it was something we felt we needed to do and do it together," said Jason. "We thought it was an important part of the healing experience and it was the honorable thing to do."
Family Voices Opinions on the War
When asked by reporters whether his support of the war had waned since losing two sons in the war, Jeff Hubbard said that he hoped the "people in power" were making the right decisions overseas and encouraged Americans to support the United States.
"I just hope they're right and I hope we get something accomplished out of all this after all the sacrifice we've made and the rest of the country has sacrificed," he said, choking back tears during the emotional interview. "I think the people of the nation need to support the nation because the nation is at war."
And, despite experiencing the loss of war on two different occasions, Jeff said that he still wouldn't discourage other young men and women from joining the military.
Jason agreed with his dad and offered advice to those who might be considering enlisting.
"In making the decision, [it] cannot be 100 percent focused on patriotism or 100 percent focused on what you think might be or might not be," said Jason. "The reality is that service to our country is a job and it's a hard job and many people make ultimate sacrifices to do it."
Since Nathan's death, Jason has taken a 25-day emergency leave from the military and is ineligible to return to a hostile environment; he is likely to return to his base in Hawaii and serve his remaining year from there.
As for Nathan, Jason mourned the loss of a young man who had a full life ahead of him.
"He had a lot of plans and dreams," said Jason. "He was only 21. Sometimes those plans change day to day so where he would have went, we don't really know. But he was enthusiastic about life and there was a lot he wanted to do."