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Army Maj. Douglas La Bouff, 36, La Puente; Killed in Chopper Crash

January 22, 2006|Scott Glover | Times Staff Writer

Army Maj. Douglas La Bouff wasn't ordered to go to Iraq; he volunteered.

That gung-ho spirit typified La Bouff, who dreamed of becoming a soldier from the time he was a boy running around his La Puente neighborhood in combat fatigues, his brother said.

"He told me he was over there to protect us from harm," said George La Bouff, who traded e-mails with his younger brother during his deployment in Iraq. "He believed in what he was doing."

Douglas La Bouff, 36, was killed Jan. 7 when the Black Hawk helicopter he was in crashed outside Tall Afar, west of Mosul, according to military officials. Eleven others -- seven soldiers and four civilians -- also died in the crash, which remains under investigation.

La Bouff, assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Carson, Colo., was married and had two young children. He had been scheduled to return to the United States next month.

"This is the tragic loss of a genuinely good man," said Army Capt. Robert Medina, a longtime friend. "Everyone is finding this very hard to accept."

La Bouff was born in Baldwin Park and reared in La Puente. He attended elementary school at St. Joseph School and served as an altar boy.

"There was a loyalty about him that was obvious," said Msgr. Patrick Staunton, then the parish priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church. "He was a very serious-minded young man. You knew you could trust him."

La Bouff went on to Bishop Amat Memorial High School, where he played football, served in the student senate and developed an anti-drug program for which he received a medal from Congress, according to friends and family.

Ron Woolsey, La Bouff's history teacher during his sophomore year, said that, even as a teenager, La Bouff impressed him as "somebody who had some real leadership qualities."

"He was a real likable kid," Woolsey added.

After graduation, La Bouff went to Whittier College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1992. He then earned a master's in the same subject from Cal State Fullerton, where he enrolled in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. He joined the Army in 1995, doing two tours of duty in South Korea.

Last year, a colonel he knew asked him to accompany him to Iraq to serve as his top intelligence officer, friends and family said. Though the informal request did not compel him to go, La Bouff agreed to do so.

Medina said La Bouff put off his desire to pursue a teaching post at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"He did this out of selflessness," Medina said. "He wanted to make a contribution where it mattered the most."

George La Bouff, a Long Beach resident, said his brother, who stood 6 feet tall and spoke with a deep voice, was a devout Catholic and deeply principled.

"He was the type of person who, if he did not believe in the mission that we're doing in Iraq, he would not have volunteered to go," he said. "His brothers and sisters are very proud of him."

Douglas La Bouff lived with his wife and children in Colorado Springs, Colo. He moved his mother in with the family after his father died so she wouldn't be lonely and could be close to her grandchildren, Medina said.

La Bouff's wife, Karen, declined to talk to reporters. Through Medina, she said: "He was a devoted father, a perfect husband."

La Bouff also is survived by two other brothers, a sister and 12 nieces and nephews.

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