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MILITARY DEATHS

Navy Hospitalman Daniel S. Noble, 21, Whittier; among 3 killed by bomb

August 26, 2007|Doug Smith | Times Staff Writer

His uncle and surrogate father remembers Daniel S. Noble as "a hands-off kid."

"You didn't have to worry about him doing the right thing," Kelly Thomas said. "If he had questions about what the right things were or had a problem, he would come to me. He always came to me for the tough problems that he didn't think he could talk to his mom about. And we worked it out."

Athletic and formidable at 6 feet 7 and 260 pounds, Noble nonetheless decided after graduating from La Mirada High School in 2004 not to pursue college-level football.

His grandfather and godfather had both served in the Navy, and Noble decided to follow their path, said his mother, Julie Ann.

He was aiming for the Seabees. But he broke a hand just before he was scheduled to start basic training. By the time he had recuperated, there were no Seabee openings, so he had to make a quick decision.

"He decided to be a corpsman, and he loved it," his mother said.

Noble, 21, had always liked science and math, and the medical training interested Thomas, who had experience as an emergency medical technician.

"We would study and I would teach him what I knew, things that would help him," Thomas said. "But after his corpsman training, he was teaching me things I didn't know the corps were doing: medical treatment, triage, severe trauma care."

As a corpsman, technically a hospitalman in rank, Noble was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force Pacific at Camp Pendleton. His unit shipped out to Iraq's Anbar province, west of Baghdad, shortly before Christmas.

Thomas said his nephew's girlfriend recounted a telephone call she had with him from Iraq. "She was crying," Thomas said. "One of the Marines in his squad grabbed the phone and talked to his girlfriend. 'No need to worry,' the Marine said. 'We're going to take care of Daniel. He's here to take care of us. Nothing is going to happen to him.' "

When "the worst catastrophic incident happened, there wasn't anything his buddies could do or I could do," Thomas said.

On July 24, Noble was riding in the fourth vehicle of a 43-vehicle convoy, Thomas said he was told by a military casualty officer.

A roadside bomb was remotely detonated under the vehicle, and the driver, gunner and Noble were killed instantly. A fourth occupant was severely wounded and is still being treated for head and face trauma. Two minutes later, a secondary explosion killed a passenger in a vehicle farther back in the convoy.

In the book of reminiscences written by those attending Noble's funeral in his hometown of Whittier, several childhood friends recalled his even nature and constant loyalty.

His uncle, Thomas, said of the friends' comments, "Very poetically, the response was, 'We never thought of Daniel like a friend, but like a brother. We did everything like brothers.' "

Contacted by The Times, one of those friends, Craig Carson, who also is in the Navy, said he considered Noble the nicest person he had ever met.

Carson said he met Noble when he moved to Whittier while in the third grade.

"My first day of school I was playing on the monkey bars," Carson said. "He came up to me and started talking. The first thing I noticed was he was pretty tall. We started talking about transformers. That's how it happened. Fourteen years I've known him; he never once got in a fistfight."

Growing up, they built go-karts, hung out endlessly and played paint ball and computer combat games together.

"He was into that combat stuff," Carson said. "He was interested in guns. He'd never use it on anybody."

Before his death, Noble was considering whether to reenlist or return to civilian life to be a police officer or firefighter. His uncle said he thought Noble was leaning toward being a firefighter.

In addition to his mother and uncle, Noble is survived by his father, Barry; a brother, Andrew, 24; and a sister, Katlin, 18.

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doug.smith@latimes.com

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