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N.H. Guardsman dies in Kuwait accident

He was member of a Mass. unit and Gulf War vet

Robert E. Rooney, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and a father of three whose National Guard unit was sent overseas last winter, died in Kuwait Thursday from injuries suffered in an accident that was not combat-related, officials said yesterday.

A Nashua resident who was a member of the Massachusetts National Guard for more than 20 years, Rooney, 43, worked full time at Cape Edwards in Bourne as a supervisor of an equipment and maintenance unit.

Rooney, an Army sergeant first class, was killed in a forklift accident while his company, the 379th Engineer Company, was unloading cargo in Shuabai Port, officials said.

"From his fellow soldiers, to those whose lives he has touched in the community, Sergeant Rooney was a devoted husband, father, and a respected colleague," said a statement released by Major General George W. Keefe, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard. "We mourn his loss."

A woman who answered the phone at Rooney's New Hampshire home last night said the family was too devastated to comment. He leaves a wife, a son, and two stepchildren.

Since May 1, when President Bush declared the end of major fighting, 170 US soldiers have died in Iraq, according to the latest Department of Defense figures.

A National Guard member since 1982, Rooney served with the 181st Engineer Company in Operation Desert Storm. The company was later redesignated as the 379th Engineer Company.

Activated in January, Rooney was sent overseas a few weeks later. His company's mission was to reconstruct and recontour secondary and main roadways in Kuwait and Iraq, officials said.

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