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Tuesday, December 7, 2004
"We kind of planned (on having) a lot of barbecues and watching the kids grow up together," the elder Mahlenbrock said.
Mahlenbrock had recently celebrated the birth of his fourth son, several weeks after celebrating the birth of his first grandchild, David's first kid.
But now David will not be there for the barbecues, and he won't get to watch his daughter, Kadence, and youngest brother, Darek, grow up together.
A roadside bomb struck a Humvee in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Friday, killing David, 20, and wounding two other soldiers. Mahlenbrock, a combat engineer, was clearing a route when the bomb detonated.
Mahlenbrock's father says he plans to tell Kadence -- his only grandchild -- that her father was a good man.
"She would've liked knowing him, and it was a shame that he had to leave," he said. "She's going to be a lot like him."
"I think Dave was a fine example of a young man who believed in what his country stood for and was willing to put his life on the line for it. He was proud to serve his country. He made us all proud, too," his father said.
"He went in with a lot of confidence," he added. "The furthest thing from his mind was that something was going to happen. I know he was not afraid of anything over there."
According to a New Jersey newspaper, the Camden Courier-Post, David Mahlenbrock was able to see his daughter, now 10 weeks old, for the first time recently during a brief visit to New Jersey.
But he returned to Iraq before meeting his youngest brother, Darek, who was born on Nov. 14.
The young Mahlenbrock was a varsity football player and avid wrestler at Maple Shade High School, where he graduated in 2002. He also enjoyed swimming, camping and paintball.
"He was positive and outgoing. He was a 'can do' kind of guy. There was nothing he couldn't do," said his father. "He was just an exceptional individual. Dave was rare."
David married Melissa, his high school sweetheart, on Oahu about a year and a half ago. "When we first started dating at 14, I told my mom, 'I'm going to marry him,'" Melissa told the Courier-Post. "It was the best decision I ever made."
"I just want everyone to know what kind of man he was," she said. "He was one of the best men I ever met in my entire life."
David Mahlenbrock enlisted in the Army in October 2002. He was later assigned to the Bravo Company, 65th Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division (Light), in February 2003.
Mahlenbrock was in Iraq for 11 months and was due to return to Hawaii in March.
His father said he and his son talked or e-mailed each other at least once a week. "He would talk about how much he missed us and how he looked forward to coming home," he said.
Mahlenbrock paused as he thought of what he would later tell his youngest son about his older brother.
"I would tell him his brother died fighting for his freedom," he said as his voice trembled in sadness. "I would tell him his brother was a hero who was killed in the war."
A funeral service is expected to be held in Maple Shade.
Mahlenbrock is survived by wife Melissa; daughter Kadence; father Russell; brothers Chris, Andrew and Darek; and stepmother Elizabeth.