CHESTERTOWN, MD, USA U.S. Army PFC, CO. D, 1ST BATTALION, 504TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT, FORT BRAGG, N.C. 28310 BAGHDAD, IRAQ 02/14/2004
Beverly Fabri made sure that her son, Private Bryan Nicholas Spry, called her three times a week from Baghdad. She gave him a phone calling card and kept adding minutes to it. Spry, whose family called Nicholas, was always happy to talk with his mom. They last talked for about 20 minutes Thursday, the day before he was killed when his vehicle rolled into a water-filled ditch.
Spry, 19, had only been in the military since he graduated last spring from Kent County High School. Since he arrived in Iraq in January, he’d been injured twice, his mother said.
In a telephone interview from her Chestertown home, Fabri said Spry told her he’d received a laptop computer she’d sent him and wanted her to send him underwear. He also asked for an action photo of his 22-year-old brother, Michael, who plays right field for the River City Rascals, a minor league team about 35 miles outside of St. Louis in O’Fallon, Mo.
Spry entered the Army three weeks after graduating in June from Kent County High.
“He always seemed to cling to military people,” Fabri said. He spent hours in high school with two teachers who had served in the military. His maternal grandfather served at Guadalcanal in World War II and received a Silver Star, which Spry always carried with him.
Fabri said Spry grew up in the shadow of his older, more athletic brother, but was always proud and supportive of him. Fabri was very close to her sons, she said.
“Their father and I split up when they were 5 (years old) and 18 months (old), and until I remarried nine years later, it was just the three of us.”
Nicholas suffered from an attention deficit problem, so he and his mother spent hours each week working together on his school work, Fabri said.
Spry was injured Jan. 24 when he was shot by an enemy combatant, his mother said. His flak jacket absorbed most of the impact, but he was badly bruised. Three days later, Spry suffered a concussion when a bomb exploded behind a Humvee he was driving. But Spry, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, N.C., was back on duty shortly after each incident, his mother said.
Fabri, who has worked the business manager of a marina for 25 years, is still struggling with the news. “Some minutes are better than others,” she said.
But she said support from the community has been overwhelming. “There has been such an outpouring of love — gifts, flowers, food,” she said. Within hours after she was notified of her son’s death, “everyone who graduated with Nicholas all jumped in their cars and they were here.”
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division held a memorial service in Iraq to remember Spry. He was called “Bulldog” because of his square jaw, the soldiers said Wednesday after the service. They also recalled his smile and the ever-present pinch of snuff in his lower lip.
At the end of the service, 1st Sgt. Darrel Jolley made a last roll call. He called Spry’s name three times before turning in silence to face the paratrooper’s boots and weapon. The silence was broken by three volleys of seven rifle shots.