Ever wanted to go back to college for the day? Don’t miss: 3 top lecturers in Baltimore

Local man dies

A former Marine working as a private contractor in Iraq was killed Sunday when his convoy was attacked.

A former Marine who spent most of past year in Iraq only to return as a private contractor two months ago was killed Sunday when a bomb blew up his convoy.

Robert Wagner, a 29-year-old husband and father who most recently lived in Newport News, died while leading a convoy to transport materials for the reconstruction of Iraq. The explosion also injured two other American contractors and killed two Iraqis, according to Wagner's family.

Wagner grew up in West Palm Beach, Fla., and spent eight years in the Marines before moving to Newport News. After getting out of the Marines, he reenlisted in the Army Reserves in 2001 and spent nine months in 2003 in Iraq.

In June, he left his job as a security screener supervisor at the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport to return to Iraq as a contractor for Custer Battles, a security company based in Newport, R.I. The company released few details about the death Thursday, saying only that Wagner was a member of a security team protecting contractors helping to rebuild Iraq.

As a contractor, Wagner was one of tens of thousands of civilians operating behind the scenes overseas to provide support for American troops. Many have found themselves in combat since the U.S. invaded Iraq last year.

In March, four contractors from Blackwater USA, a security company in North Carolina, were killed in an ambush in Fallujah, Iraq. And in April, a Virginia Beach man working as a contractor for Halliburton subsidiary KBR was killed while transporting oil between Fallujah in Baghdad.

Custer Battles would not say where in Iraq Wagner was working when his convoy was attacked. A spokeswoman called his death a "grave loss" to the company.

"He was just a very, very warm-hearted person," his step-mother, Vicki Wagner, said in a telephone interview from her home in West Palm Beach. "He was proud of his service, and he liked helping people."

Besides his parents and siblings in Florida, Wagner leaves a wife, Kristie, and a 5-year-old son, Ty, who live in Gloucester. As an Army reservist, he was with the 88th Military Police Company, which trains at Fort Eustis, his step-mother said.

As a Marine, Wagner received anti-terrorism training. While deployed to Iraq last year, he did house-to-house searches and manned roadblocks.

Before leaving for Iraq again in June, he said good-bye to his neighbors in the Village at Stoneybrook apartments off Warwick Boulevard. During his four or five months living at the complex, Wagner, who everyone called "Bobby," was a kind, friendly man who didn't think twice about helping his neighbors carry groceries or jump- start cars, said Ethel Masten.

Masten, a former Army specialist, said Wagner was a devoted father who spent as much time as he could with his son.

"I'm so sorry to hear that," Masten said. "So many people have died in this war. He was a good one. He was just a good guy." One of the last things 18-year-old Shay Masten said to Wagner was to tell him to be careful.

Yet even his family said Wagner was used to danger and knew what he could face if he went back to Iraq.

"Nobody wants their kid to go into danger, but I supported him," his father, Bruce Wagner of West Palm Beach, said. "He was a Marine through-and-through."\

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad