The war was over. But Spc. Charles LeRoy Bowman Jr. was still stationed in Iraq, a country pocked by bomb explosions and strewn with bombs that had yet to go off. One of them exploded in his hands and killed him.
The U.S. Central Command said yesterday that Bowman, 20, of Manchester, was killed and three other soldiers were injured in the explosion of a cluster bomb Tuesday.
Bowman's family learned yesterday of his death. "All we know is they were moving ammunition and when they put it down, it exploded," said his mother, Sandra Bowman. "That's all we know."
Bowman was the fifth soldier from Maryland to die since Iraq invaded Kuwait in August. He was the 112th non-combat casualty in the war.
Maj. Joe Padilla, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Bowman was a mechanic for Bradley fighting vehicles in the 3rd Armored Division.
The cluster bombs are baseball-size bombs, hundreds of which can spew out of a single big bomb dropped from an Air Force plane, Padilla said.
Maj. Mac Balod, a spokesman at the Joint Information Bureau in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said unexploded bombs were all over the Persian Gulf war theater. He said the military was working to find them and defuse them, though he couldn't say whether this was Bowman's duty at the time of his death.
Bowman joined the Army after his graduation in 1988 from North Carroll High School in Hampstead.
The summer before his senior year, and during that school year, he worked at the Butler Peddler, an antique sales and restoration business in northern Baltimore County. Frank Langan, who manages the workshop there, said Bowman had talked of joining the Army to prepare for a career in engine mechanics.
"His father was a mechanic, and he wanted to learn to work on diesels," Langan said. The Army offered "a way of learning a trade while being paid for it," he said.
While stationed in Freidburg, Germany, Bowman came home on leave last fall and visited the workshop. He appeared to like the Army, but if he worried about deployment to the war that had started a few months earlier, he didn't show it, Langan said. "He didn't think he would be called in."
When Bowman joined the Army, the prospect of war and the risks of joining the military seemed remote. "I don't think it was even on his mind," Langan said, "the chance of going to war."