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Army Spc. Nicholas J. Zangara

Died July 24, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom


21, of Philadelphia; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; killed July 24 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy vehicle in Tikrit, Iraq.

Philadelphia soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia soldier had phoned his wife to wish her a happy birthday only hours before he was killed in Tikrit, Iraq, over the weekend, his family said.

Spc. Nicholas J. Zangara, 21, died Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle, according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, based out of Schweinfurt, Germany.

Melanie Zangara, his wife of 16 months, said her husband phoned her at midnight in her hometown of York to wish her a happy 20th birthday.

“He stayed on the phone until 2:30 a.m. He was so full of life. He kept me on my toes every day. It was always something new with that boy. He kept surprising me,” she said.

She said her husband was a hero, but not because of the circumstances of his death.

“Dying in Iraq didn’t make him a hero,” she said Monday. “He has always been one because there was nothing he couldn’t do or accomplish.”

Zangara’s mother, Barbara Burgstahler, and his stepfather, Ed Burgstahler, live in the West Torresdale section of Philadelphia. His father, Richard Zangara, and stepmother, Bridget Zangara, live in the Briarcliffe section of nearby Darby Township, Delaware County.

Zangara enlisted in the Army in 2000 and served three years, mostly in Germany and Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia, his family said.

“The ironic thing is his enlistment was finished and he didn’t have to re-enlist,” said Ed Burgstahler, a retired Philadelphia police detective. “That’s what’s killing us. We could have provided for him, but he was newly married and he wanted to be responsible and obtain a skill and an education.”

Richard Zangara said he urged his son to re-enlist.

“After he was sent to Iraq he said to me, ‘Dad, I never used to listen to you, and when I finally did, I ended up in Iraq. I should have tried to keep my streak alive,”’ Richard Zangara said.

Nicholas Zangara was due to return to the Philadelphia area on leave in two weeks.

“He wasn’t worried about anything over there,” Richard Zangara said. “All he cared about was making sure we weren’t worrying about him here at home. The last time I talked to him was on Friday and he said to ‘quit worrying because I’m going to get out of this hellhole and be home in two weeks.”’

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