Narrowsburg Native Killed In Iraq
By Fred Stabbert III
NARROWSBURG March 20, 2007 Sullivan County lost a native son this past weekend in the Iraq War when PFC Anthony Kaiser, 27, a Narrowsburg native, was killed in a roadside ambush just outside of Baghdad.
An MP with the U.S. Army, 571 MP Company, Kaiser was serving as a gunner with his unit when a car pulled up to his roadside checkpoint and opened fire. According to his brother Steven, who also serves in the U.S. Army, Kaiser was hit in the head.
Exact details are still unknown and it wasn’t clear whether any other soldiers were killed in the attack. Kaiser’s body is en route to the United States and will arrive at Dover AFB in Delaware.
Funeral arrangements, under the direction of Rasmussen Funeral Home in Narrowsburg, are still pending.
“They came under attack from another vehicle and Anthony was killed,” Andy Kaiser, Anthony’s father, said Sunday afternoon from his Narrowsburg home. “It happened Friday or Saturday. Being an MP in Iraq is probably the worst thing to be.
“His wife is pretty distraught,” Kaiser said. “It’s just horrible. I had kept my fingers crossed for 11⁄2 years.”
This is the second Kaiser to serve in Iraq. Anthony’s brother, Steven, served in both Kuwait and Iraq.
“He served abroad for 11⁄2 years,” Kaiser said. “He’s a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Army, serving in Hawaii.”
A 1998 graduate of Narrowsburg Central School, Anthony went to Sullivan County Community College, where he earned his Criminal Justice degree in 2001.
He joined the New York State Police for a short time and then decided to join the U.S. Army.
He trained at Fort Lewis, Washington for six months before being sent to Iraq last October.
The 27-year-old was married two years ago to the former Heather Featherman of Wayne County, Pa. and the couple lived in Washington.
“They met while they both worked at Wal-Mart in Honesdale, Pa.,” Andy said. “It truly is a full-service store you can even find a wife.”
A Family Full of Devotion
As the bright sunshine shone through the windows at the Kaiser home on Sunday afternoon, Narrowsburg firefighter and close family friend Dave Casey sat with Anthony’s grieving parents, Andy and Marilyn.
“We already have the flag up,” Casey said, referring to the “In Memoriam” black flag which fire departments display when one of the “fellow brothers” dies.
“We’ll take care of everything, don’t worry,” Casey reassured the family as he walked out of the house, head hung low.
Anthony was a fireman when he lived in Narrowsburg, signing up for the volunteer department “the day he was old enough,” his father said.
A fireman since 1998, Anthony even served as the company’s president for two years.
“We still have his gear,” Casey said.
“All those guys were close-knit,” Marilyn said. “In a small school like Narrowsburg everybody knows everybody. They go to school with each other… first grade through twelfth grade.”
Anthony, Casey and Mike Kelly grew up together and were all in each other’s weddings. All firefighters, Casey and Kelly are now president and chief of the Narrowsburg Fire Dept., respectively.
“The support is tremendous,” Andy agreed. “They almost had to close the school when my son, Brian, died.”
Brian, the oldest of the Kaiser sons, was killed in an automobile accident in 1997.
Andy’s wife, Stephanie, also died following a bout with cancer.
Today Andy and his wife, Marilyn Kelly, live in a two-story white house, nestled in the woods off Forest Pond Road.
They both work for Catskill Regional Medical Center, Andy as a supervisor in the Lab at Harris, while Marilyn is a nurse in Callicoon.
As word spread across the county of the Kaiser’s loss, the phone kept ringing.
Even the Kaiser’s dog knew something was wrong.
“He never left Andy’s side all night last night,” Marilyn said.
And soon, Anthony will be back home in Narrowsburg, to a place where everyone knows his name.
Unfortunately, instead of open arms and a strong embrace, this hero will be greeted by tears of sorrow and broken hearts.
Classmates, Community Recall Anthony Kaiser
By Jeanne Sager
NARROWSBURG They heard it in Peck’s. They made phone calls. They dropped in on each other at home.
Word made its way across Narrowsburg quickly.
They’ve lost one of their own.
Anthony Kaiser was the quiet kid, the one who fought fires instead of shooting hoops, the one who told everyone he’d grow up to be a cop.
He died last week, shot by enemy Iraqis while manning a Humvee in the middle of a foreign land.
For the Class of ’98 from Narrowsburg Central School, 20 kids now grown up, it’s a devastating loss.
They’re gearing up for a 10-year reunion next year. They’ll have to do it one member short.
“It’s really hard,” said Caitlin Bernstein. “We went to school with 20 kids… you grew up with them… it’s almost like a family member dying.”
John Tenbus went to nursery school with Kaiser. He served with Kaiser on the altar at St. Francis Xavier.
They shared classes all the way through 12th grade.
Now a teacher at Tri-Valley, Tenbus lives across the county, but he got a call from Bernstein over the weekend.
Everyone was shocked, he said, but they all had the same memories.
“They all said he was such a nice guy,” Tenbus noted. “He was an extremely nice person… was just polite to everybody, got along with everybody.”
Kaiser had a unique look at the world, Tenbus said. Despite the loss of first his mother and then his brother, he remained steadfast on his goals. “He was always upbeat,” Tenbus explained. “He didn’t hold it against the world.”
Instead Kaiser poured himself into helping people, first as a fireman, later as a State Trooper and finally as a member of the Armed Forces.
“We’ve got so many kids over there,” said Pat Hawker, school nurse at Sullivan West who watched Kaiser grow up.
“It was bound to happen,” she said sadly. “I think too many people think it’s somebody else’s backyard.”
Hawker’s daughter was a classmate of Kaiser’s. Pat served as advisor to the class of ’98 for four years.
“Anthony was always the quiet one, but give him a job to do for one of the fundraisers and he was always there,” she recalled.
Her husband, Art, remembers Kaiser signing up to fight fires when he was still a teenager.
When the Narrowsburg Fire Department’s president stepped down, leaving the position vacant just as the department was putting together its centennial celebration, Kaiser didn’t shy away from serving.
He stepped up and did an admirable job, Art Hawker said, shouldering a considerable amount of work to pull off a celebration.
Recently retired from the New York State Police, Hawker kept an eye out as Kaiser applied for and was accepted to the academy.
He remembers Kaiser’s determination when he ran into academic difficulties, taking on an additional workload and reaching out to a tutor for help.
When the troopers didn’t work out, Hawker said the guys at the firehouse urged Kaiser to apply to another local police agency.
But Kaiser was steadfast in his decision to enter the Army and become an MP.
“He just wanted to serve in some capacity,” Hawker noted.
Classmate Mike Maas said it’s a frustrating loss.
“A lot of people disagree about the war in Iraq, why we’re there,” he said, pausing. “When you lose a friend, it really hits you.”
Kaiser’s death has devastated not just his family but a community.
Fireman Craig Burkle, who served as chief when Kaiser was president, said the department has already set up a memorial with Kaiser’s bunker pants and accountability tags in his little cubbyhole.
Plans are already in the works to honor a fallen soldier, a native son, a nice guy.
The flags were flying at half mast at Sullivan West’s Lake Huntington campus Monday in his honor.
Teacher John Ogozalek had Kaiser in his class in Narrowsburg, and the two had been exchanging letters across the ocean.
Ogozalek was addressing a care package Saturday night to be delivered to Kaiser’s Army base when the call came from Anthony’s father.
“I was kind of sand-bagged by the whole thing,” he said sadly. “He was such a decent human being… you know that old saying, ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly?’ That was him.”