Stuart Wolfer, who grew up in Dix Hills, L.I., surprised his parents on a visit back home during his freshman year in college when he announced he was going to join the ROTC military training program and eventually serve in the U.S. Army.
“We’re not army people. This is not your personality,” his father, Len, told him.
“I only go around once. I want to try everything,” Stuart Wolfer answered.
Maj. Wolfer, who was commissioned to active duty in Iraq last December, was killed Sunday when the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad came under rocket fire from Shiite militants. Two other American soldiers died in the attack.
Maj. Wolfer, 36, a fitness buff who had run a half-marathon inside the Green Zone last month, was working out in the area’s fitness center when the attack took place.
“He was in great shape,” Len Wolfer said. “He jogged, he lifted weights, he kept himself in really physical shape.”
Burial is to be Friday in Des Moines, Iowa, near his wife’s family. In addition to his father and his mother, Esther, Maj. Wolfer is survived by his wife, Lee, and the couple’s three children, Lillian, Melissa and Isadora, of Emmett, Idaho, and a sister, Beverly.
Maj. Wolfer, who had attended the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County, moved with his family to Florida in 1984, attending high school in Coral Springs, and Washington University in St. Louis. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he earned a law degree at Loyola University in Los Angeles, and briefly served on army active duty while the size of the U.S. military was being reduced.
A member of the Army Reserves, he had worked as a civilian in recent years as a sales representative for a book publisher in Idaho.
Maj. Wolfer was called up in 2004 for a year of active duty in Kuwait, where he served in logistics, then was called up again late last year. In Iraq he worked in operations, training Iraqi security forces.
“Stuart would say, ‘This is my country. I need to serve,’” said Len Wolfer, who lives in Boca Raton.
Maj. Wolfer kept in touch with his family regularly by phone and e-mail. His parents started the Boca Raton branch of Cell Phones for Soldiers, which sells donated cell phones to buy calling cards for soldiers stationed overseas.
The Wolfers were members of the Dix Hills Jewish Center. Maj. Wolfer “was religious, he was a good soul and good human being,” Esther Wolfer said.
Len Wolfer said his son awoke early every morning to pray with tefillin in his room in Baghdad. Maj. Wolfer visited Israel twice, and was an active member of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.
Kelly McGrew, a private contractor who works in the Green Zone, said Sgt. Wolfer was a “wonderful guy.”
“We tapped him to be the next [Jewish] lay leader,” he said by phone from Baghdad. “He and I were the only ones who brought along our tallit and tefillin.”
He said Capt. Shlomo Shulman, a chaplain stationed at Camp Striker in Baghdad, planned to fly into the Green Zone Sunday to conduct a memorial service in Sgt. Wolfer’s memory.
During his previous months in Iraq and his earlier posting in Kuwait, Maj. Wolfer experienced no close calls, did not come under life-threatening attack, Len Wolfer said. “This was the first one.”
Stewart Ain contributed to this report.