Marine 'pursued a dream to fly'
Pilot, 31, dies in Iraq copter crash
BY FREDERICK MELO and DAVID HANNERS
After college, Nathanael Doring followed his dreams of flying and landed in the Marines, where the 31-year-old Apple Valley man met the second love of his life: his wife. The two served as captains in Iraq, and in April, he extended his second tour of duty so he could return to the U.S. this summer, shortly before she would.
Nathanael Doring, who flew attack helicopters with the Marines, died this past weekend when his AH-1 Cobra crashed into a deep lake about 45 miles west of Baghdad.
Searchers recovered his body from the cockpit Monday, along with that of a 25-year-old corporal, and their families were notified of their deaths. The accident happened during a routine maintenance test flight near an airbase and was not combat related, according to the military.
The cause of the crash is still undetermined, Doring's family said. He was the 32nd Minnesota military member to die in the Iraq war.
Cara Skoglund said her younger brother looked forward to returning to the United States in August and planned to spend time with Alexander, his 7-year-old son from a previous relationship. The boy, who lives in Maryland with his mother, learned Tuesday of Doring's death.
Skoglund and other family members remembered Doring as an independent spirit who loved the camaraderie of the military. Soccer and aviation were his greatest passions, which he took to early. While still a student at Apple Valley High School, he completed ground classes in aviation and played soccer or served as a referee.
He later attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering, graduating with honors in electrical engineering in the late 1990s before joining the U.S. Marine Corps.
"Everything he did was his own path," said Jim Doring, Nathanael Doring's father, standing with Doring's older sister and younger brother Wednesday outside the family's Apple Valley home.
Marine Capt. Lisa Christenson Doring will accompany her husband's casket back to the U.S. this week, where he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial service has been tentatively scheduled for June 10 at the Berea Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights.
The two married three years ago in a ceremony at the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
During the opening salvos of the war, Doring's squadron launched operations from Kuwait into Iraq. He was among the 24 pilots of Helicopter Squadron-369 who received air medals in June 2004 for their extensive missions in combat zones.
The twin-engine AH-1W Super Cobra, the latest version of an aircraft that first saw service in Vietnam, is used by the Marines for attacking armor, armed escort and reconnaissance, among other duties.
Doring's uncle, Rich Gamble of Inver Grove Heights, said he recalled a young man who was quiet and devoted.
"He pursued a dream to fly and was able to accomplish that," said Gamble. "He was dedicated to that and dedicated to what he was doing."
Gamble said Doring believed the U.S. involvement in Iraq was a good thing.
"From his perspective, I know he believed they were helping the people in Iraq," he said.
Doring had already completed two tours of duty in Iraq and his unit had returned to Camp Pendleton in April, his uncle said. But because his wife still was serving in Iraq, he decided to stay in the Middle East.
Since his unit was stateside, Doring was assigned to act as a liaison between the military and defense contractors operating unmanned aerial vehicles, which are widely used in Iraq for surveillance and reconnaissance.
"He was flying these other missions for flight time, basically," Gamble said. "It wasn't part of his regular duties."
Doring's helicopter crashed Saturday into the deep water of a large lake near the Al Taqaddum airbase, the military said. Because special equipment had to be moved to the scene to search for and recover the helicopter, it wasn't until Monday — two days after the crash — that Doring's death was confirmed.
32: Minnesota military members killed in Iraq
53: Wisconsin military members killed in Iraq
stop and think for a minute