When Spc. Frederick A. Carlson IV was asked recently by his superiors whether he wished to stay another year in Iraq, it took some convincing by his father for the Army National Guardsman from Bethlehem not to re-enlist.
Carlson, 25, died Saturday in Iraq after fellow soldiers found him unconscious in his bed at a base in Taqqadum, west of Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, a spokesman for the state National Guard.
The military plans to perform an autopsy on Carlson, whose body has been flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, said his father, Frederick Carlson III of Seisholtzville, Berks County.
"I'm very proud of my son and the work that he did," the elder Carlson said. "For him, I think that serving there gave more meaning to his life than simply being here."
Carlson was assigned to the Army National Guard's 228th Forward Support Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Division, based in Bethlehem.
Carlson initially went to Iraq to work as a cook, but given that food for his division already came prepared, his superiors asked whether he wanted to work as part of a rapid-response force that frequently saw front-line combat, Cleaver said. Carlson eagerly volunteered.
"You can't get more aggressive than what he was doing," Cleaver said. "He really saw that what he was doing was making a difference."
Carlson struggled at first with having to shoot at other human beings, his father said, but the specialist had little time to adjust, needing to fire his M60 rifle within three days of seeing front-line duty.
Carlson's group provided security for military convoys, patrolled the streets of such hot spots as Fallujah and Tikrit, and was one of the first on the scene when insurgents and the military fought, his father said.
Carlson attended Liberty High School but dropped out in the 11th grade, his father said. He eventually received a general equivalency diploma and worked briefly as a cook before working as an electrician.
Last April, Carlson and his girlfriend, Christina Ruiz of Bethlehem, had a son.
After Carlson's body is released from the base, services will be at Long Funeral Home in Bethlehem. He will be buried in Nisky Hill Cemetery in the city.
While it's difficult to lose a loved one who was serving his country while at war, Carlson said he is taking solace that his son was not tortured or shot by the enemy.
"I'm still hoping that this will all be a dream," Carlson said. "The hard part is waiting for him to come home."