|From Buffalo News buffalonews.com
Amherst soldier killed in Afghanistan
By Dan Herbeck NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Published: November 6, 2010, 6:49 PM
Updated: November 7, 2010, 7:21 AM
Whenever he got the chance, Army Spc. Blake D. Whipple would use the Internet device known as Skype to talk to his parents in Amherst about his war experiences in Afghanistan.
He tried not to upset them, but his parents knew their 21-year-old son was a combat engineer who spent much of his time clearing the roads of improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs.
It was just such a device -- a roadside bomb planted by insurgents -- that killed Whipple on Friday.
"We knew Blake had a very dangerous job [but] he always kind of downplayed the danger, probably because he didn't want us to worry," the soldier's father, David Whipple, told The Buffalo News Saturday night. "We were a little worried about something he said during his last Skype conversation with us on Tuesday."
His father said Blake usually tried to stay bright and cheerful during chats with the parents, but at one point on Tuesday, he said: "It's getting a little dicey around here."
"Basically, he told us that there was a lot more activity in the area with IEDs," David Whipple said. "Blake was a very brave young man. ... His job was to clear IEDs away from roads, and an IED is what killed him."
Friday afternoon, an Army chaplain and two uniformed soldiers arrived to tell David Whipple and his wife, Kimberly, that their son was dead.
Family members were still trying to come to grips with their loss Saturday. They were also preparing to travel to Dover, Del., today to pick up Blake's body.
Whipple, a 2007 graduate of Williamsville East High School, was killed in the Ghazi province of Afghanistan.
"Insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device," according to the Department of Defense statement.
The soldier was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade from the 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum near Watertown.
His father said Blake had spent time as a student at St. Bonaventure University, Erie Community College and Buffalo State College before joining the Army early last year.
The news that he was joining the military came as a surprise, the family said.
"He came home one day and suddenly told us, 'I'm going to talk to a recruiter, and I think I'm going to join the military,'" the father said. "He wanted to do something more immediate in his life, and wanted to help his country.
"It would not have been our first choice for what we wanted him to do, but it was his choice, and we supported our son. From the look in his eye, I could tell he was dead serious about doing this."
Whipple shipped out to Afghanistan in May. When his mother asked him how he felt about going there, "Blake just looked at her and said, 'It's my job,'" David Whipple recalled.
He said his family had been told that he was out on a patrol with five other soldiers when the IED blast occurred. The other five survived.
David Whipple said his son was born in Detroit, and that the family moved to Amherst in 1995 because of an employment opportunity for him. They moved to Baltimore in 2000, and back to Buffalo in 2006.
Considered fun-loving and with a great sense of humor, Blake enjoyed playing baseball, football, hockey and video games. He also loved rock music and especially enjoyed having his own rock show on St. Bonaventure's student-run radio station during his one semester there, his father said.
His parents are thankful that Blake was able to come home for a two-week visit from Afghanistan in September.
"He was really happy to spend time with us and reconnect with old friends," David Whipple said.
In addition to his parents, the soldier is survived by two older brothers, Sean Whipple and Brian Clyburn.
His father said Army officials have been "tremendously compassionate and attentive" to the family in the past two days.
And the family was overwhelmed on Saturday with all the reporters who wanted to talk to them about their son.
"At first, I didn't know if I wanted to talk with the media," said David Whipple, a soft-spoken man who repeatedly fought back tears as he talked. "But then I thought, I want people to know about our heroic young son, a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
"I want people to know we are very proud of our son."
|Big-time sports fan who also enjoyed video games
The Associated Press
One of the highlights of rock ‘n’ roll lover Blake Whipple’s life was having his own radio show on St. Bonaventure University’s student-run station.
His friends and family described him as a fun-loving and funny guy who enjoyed baseball, football, hockey and video games.
Born in Detroit, Blake moved to the Buffalo, N.Y., suburb of Amherst with his family while in elementary school, and again to Baltimore for middle school and the beginning of high school, before settling in Amherst. He graduated in 2007 from Williamsville East High School.
He joined the Army in early 2009 after attending three western New York colleges: St. Bonaventure, Erie Community College and Buffalo State College.
“He wanted to do something more immediate in his life, and wanted to help his country,” said his father, David.
The 21-year-old combat engineer died Nov. 5 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, when a bomb he was dismantling exploded. He was assigned to Fort Drum, N.Y.
While abroad, he kept in close touch with his family through Skype.
Survivors also include his mother, Kim, and two brothers.