Just got in from echo taps here at school.... any of you who have heard it know the feeling you get when you hear it. Tonight was for a graduate from the class of '90.
The Norwich community is still reeling from the shock of its first alumnus death in Iraq.
MAJ Charles Robert Soltes, USAR, Class of 1990, was killed in Mosul, Iraq, October 13, 2004, when an explosive device struck his convoy as it returned from a local hospital. Another U.S. soldier was killed and five more were wounded in the attack.
An optometrist in civilian life, Dr. Soltes was working as a preventive health specialist with the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Upland, California. Deployed in August, the 36-year-old father of two had been in Iraq less than two weeks.
Norwich President Richard W. Schneider, upon hearing the sad news, expressed what many in the Norwich community were feeling. "All of us in the Norwich family, whether we knew Rob personally or not, grieve over the loss of one of our own," said Schneider. "Please keep Rob's family in your thoughts and prayers throughout this difficult time, and pray for the safe return of all those who are serving our nation overseas."
A biology major and president of his class while at Norwich, Rob was a member of the Corps Honor Committee, the Ring Committee, and Mountain Cold Weather, and was active in the Rugby Club and Ranger Challenge. Upon graduation, Rob joined the Army Reserve and served on active duty from July 1994 to September 1999. He was later assigned to the 7214th Medical Support Unit in Garden Grove with the Reserves.
A 1994 graduate of the New England College of Optometry in Boston, Dr. Soltes entered the U.S. Army Medical Corps that same year, and provided eye care services to servicemen and women in Texas, The Republic of Korea, and at the United States Military Academy at West Point. During his military service, Dr. Soltes completed a residency at the prestigious Brooke Army Medical Center, and earned adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Houston College of Optometry, and the State University of New York College of Optometry. At West Point, Dr. Soltes served as Director of the Optometry Residency Program.
In 1998, Dr. Soltes earned his fellowship in the American Academy of Optometry, and upon the completion of his military duties, he became the clinical director at Irvine Vision Institute. He and his wife, Dr. Sally Huong Dang, shared an optometry practice in Garden Grove and Westminster, California. Their third child is due in December.
A devoted Norwich alumnus, Rob was serving as president of the NU Club of Southern California at the time of his deployment.
The devastating news came last week as the University community was preparing for the arrival of 2000 parents and family members for Parent and Family Weekend. Although the full slate of events took place as planned, the celebratory atmosphere was somewhat subdued, as the thoughts of many in the Norwich family were with Rob's family.
At Friday's parade to welcome the families of Norwich students to campus, President Schneider made a brief reference to Dr. Soltes' death and asked that the assembled crowd pause for a moment of silence. Dr. Schneider and David Whaley, vice president for institutional advancement, will represent Norwich at Dr. Soltes' funeral service on Friday, October 22, 2004.