CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A soldier whose qualms about violence ended his first stint in the military returned for a second as a combat medic, only to be killed by a roadside bomb.

Army National Guard Spc. David Stelmat, 27, and two other soldiers died Saturday when the bomb exploded near their Humvee in Iraq, military officials said.

Stelmat was close to his two sisters while growing up in Littleton, and their decisions to become nurses helped influence his goal of becoming an Army medic en route to a career as a physician’s assistant, his mother, Maryanne Rennell, said in a telephone interview Monday from her home in Littleton.

He enlisted in the Army hoping to become a medic, but found himself in the infantry instead in Afghanistan during 2003 and 2004. Ten months into his tour, “he just about lost it,” his mother said.

Though she never got all the details, “he disobeyed a direct order,” Rennell said. “All I know was it was a night detail, and part of what he was doing was “point and shoot,”‘ she said. “He wouldn’t tell us much of anything except that he refused to launch another grenade and he refused to shoot blindly into what could possibly have been civilians.”

He got a general discharge, which covers a range of situations and reasons.

Back home, Stelmat started studying to be an emergency medical technician and, soon after, pursuing his original goal to be a combat medic. He earned an EMT certificate after a year, but it took two years of letter-writing and pleading his case “to the governor and the senators and just about everyone else” before he was able to join the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

After training in Mississippi and Texas, he left for Iraq last summer as a medic with the 237th Military Police Company.

“That’s how he want to go over, so he died doing exactly what he wanted to do,” Rennell said.

Stelmat’s pursuit of his dream wasn’t the first time he had shown unusual determination. Soon after graduating from the Profile School, a small combined middle- and high-school serving four towns in New Hampshire’s rural north, Stelmat gave up the comforts of his family’s home to live in a 10-foot-square cabin a mile in the woods in Franconia.

Though the cabin had no electricity or running water, D.J., as he was known, paid to live there for several years by cutting and splitting firewood and maintaining the entrance road, his mother said. While there, Stelmat indulged his passions for hiking and skiing and worked at Cannon Mountain ski area.

News stories about Stelmat’s death were accompanied by an Army photograph of him comforting a crying baby while on a mission in Baghdad in December. His hand is cupped behind the child’s head.

“The thing about that picture was that baby was born without a frontal lobe, and he knew there was nothing he could do for her,” his mother said. “And the look on his face is D.J. epitomized.”

David Stelmat Sr., who lives in Centerville, Ohio, was a Marine during the Vietnam War. He also recalled his son’s dedication to serving others.

“All he wanted to do was help people,” the father told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

The father did not immediately respond to a telephone message Monday afternoon.

AP-ES-03-24-08 1637EDT


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