LAKE GEORGE - A soldier who grew up in Queensbury and Lake George was killed in combat June 15 in eastern Afghanistan - and his friends and area community leaders expressed grief this week over the news.
Benjamin Osborn, 27, a 2002 graduate of Lake George High School, was recalled as a friendly, giving person - who decided to make a positive difference in the world through volunteering to serve in the U.S. Army.
Friday, while his parents and other family members were in Dover, Md. to escort his remains home, New York State Gov. David Paterson issued an order for flags on state government buildings to be flown at half mast.
Osborn, an Army Specialist, died of wounds he sustained when his unit was attacked by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Konar, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division.
"All New Yorkers grieve today with the friends, family and fellow soldiers of Specialist Osborn," Paterson stated. "On behalf of all New Yorkers I extend our condolences - But while we mourn his loss, we will honor and remember his service to our nation. He will not be forgotten."
Osborn had just married Nicole LaPier of South Glens Falls in February, and the two had been living in Clarksville, Tenn.
Osborn had lived on Ridge Rd. with his parents in the Town of Queensbury, but he attended Lake George schools, and upon graduation held jobs in Lake George Village.
Osborn's family members said Benjamin joined the U.S. Army three years ago and left the states in April to go to Afghanistan.
They said Benjamin was killed by gunfire after his squad came under heavy fire and Benjamin volunteered to be the gunner.
Lake George Town Supervisor Frank McCoy said he knew Osborn after graduation when he worked as a bartender at the Lobster Pot Restaurant and Mario's Restaurant, and McCoy would visit the establishments.
"Ben was a really good kid," McCoy said. "He volunteered to serve his country, and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for us all."
Lobster Pot owner and Town Councilman Scott Wood said Osborn had a good work ethic and related well to his customers - as well as enjoying camaraderie with his co-workers, many of whom were fellow graduates.
"Ben was a nice kid with an easygoing, friendly personality - he jumped right in talking with people having dinner or at the bar," Wood said. "Ben went overseas and he was dedicated to fighting for freedom -and you have to have a lot of respect for those who do that."
Lake George High School Principal Francis Cocozza said that the school district's staff remembered Osborn fondly, and he predicted the entire community and Warren County will be honoring Osborn according to his family's wishes.
"We as a school, village and community are mourning the loss of one of our own," he said.
Authorities said Friday that Osborn's body would probably be flown Monday to Glens Falls, and that a funeral would likely occur here next week, but arrangements weren't yet finalized.
Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais noted the proliferation of signs around Lake George honoring Osborn, and how people all over town were talking about the loss of Ben.
Blais said that municipal officials were standing by to confer with the family to decide what type of ceremony or observance was appropriate.
"This is a tragedy that effects all of us - it makes no difference if citizens knew him or not, we all feel his service to the nation should be recognized."
Around the village, a dozen or more marquees proclaimed messages on Osborn's behalf.
The sign in front of Mario's read: "Rest in Peace Fallen Soldier Ben Osborn." A marquee at The Georgian proclaimed, "You will be missed, Ben Osborn." Nearby at the Surfside Motel, their sign said, "Our thoughts are with you, Osborn family." A message of "Rest in Peace" was displayed at the Lake George Chamber of Commerce, Super 8 Motel, the Holly Tree Motel, Adventure Golf, Quality Inn, Duffy;s Tavern, The Lobster Pot, and Super 8 Motel. Lake Motel offered three words, "God Bless Ben."
Friday, U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy (D-Glens Falls) released a statement on Osborn's death.
"My heart goes out to the family of Ben Osborn - This true American hero made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation, and we owe him our eternal gratitude."
Calling hours were held Wednesday, and the funeral was scheduled for June 24 at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.
Those who seek to pay tribute to Osborn by helping fund a scholarship for disadvantaged student-athletes may do so by contributing to the Ben Osborn Memorial Fund at the Glens Falls National Bank.
State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said the Senate observed a moment of silence June 17 in his honor - as occurred Friday at the Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting. Little said her "deepest sympathy" goes out to the Osborn family.
"Like so many others in our community, I want his family to know how grateful we are for his service and his bravery."