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Symbol of September 11 courage dies in Iraq attack
A NEW York City firefighter remembered by his wife as the "ultimate patriot" died near Baghdad when his army vehicle rolled over a bomb, killing him and wounding another of the city's bravest.

Christian Engeldrum, whose September 11 heroism was captured in a New York Daily News photograph, is the first city employee to die in Iraq since the war began.

As Ground Zero burned, he was photographed steadying a ladder that another firefighter had climbed to hang a torn U.S. flag from a bent light pole.

On Monday, the courageous father was part of a convoy of Army National Guardsmen protecting a bridge from insurgents fleeing Fallujah when his unit came under attack and his Humvee rolled over a bomb.

The explosion ripped the armoured vehicle in two and hurtled the wounded soldiers on to the street. Three soldiers were killed and 16 more were seriously injured, including city firefighter Daniel Swift, 24.

Mr Swift's face was bloodied by shrapnel. A fragment lodged in his right eye, leaving him temporarily blinded, while his legs were peppered with scalding metal.

Despite his injuries, Mr Swift, the unit's medic, crawled over twisted debris and knelt next to his FDNY brother, nicknamed Drum, as Iraqi insurgents showered them with gunfire.

Mr Swift desperately tried to save Mr Engeldrum, but the 39-year-old sergeant did not survive the attack.

Mr Swift was flown to Germany for treatment, where he was expected to recover. He called his parents and fellow East Harlem firefighters at Ladder 43 yesterday just to hear "a friendly voice", his father said.

The bravery and dedication of soldiers like Mr Swift was what drew Mr Engeldrum, a five-year FDNY veteran who served at Ladder 61 in the Bronx, to Iraq, his widow said.

"He was the ultimate patriot, my husband," Sharon Engeldrum said through tears from the family's Bronx home.

"He loved his country, he loved the Fire Department. He was very brave.

"He went to the Gulf War and made it through that. He went through 9/11 and made it.

"He died doing something he believed in."

As an active member of the U.S. Army from 1986 to 1991, Mr Engeldrum was decorated with medals for his actions in Operation Desert Storm in 1990.

He remained an Army reservist. Believing the war in Iraq was important, he wanted to be with his fellow soldiers when they arrived in Baghdad last month.

On the night before Thanksgiving, Mr Engeldrum called his wife and sent his love to her and sons Sean, 18, and Royce, 16.

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