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Pride, then pain

John Engeman had a goal for his wife. On Saturday, Donna Engeman achieved it when she received a bachelor's degree in political science and public administration.

John Engeman, a career military man who grew up in East Northport and was stationed in southern Iraq, watched with pride as his wife received her diploma, thanks to an Internet feed set up by Concord University in West Virginia.

"He was so excited for me," Engeman said.

"For him to be able to see me graduate was really special. He told me afterward that I looked great," she said, her voice cracking. "Then he said, 'I'll call you tomorrow for Mother's Day.'"

That call never came.

John Engeman, 45, an Army chief warrant officer, was killed Sunday when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb, exploded and flipped over, his family said yesterday.

Engeman, who had served in Desert Storm and Kosovo, was sent to Iraq in February as part of an embedded special transition team to train and advise Iraqi security forces for one year.

By 4 p.m. Sunday, Engeman said she knew something was amiss: "He usually called by 1 o'clock my time, but I figured because it was Mother's Day there was a backup."

Later that night, when she heard news reports that two soldiers had been killed in southern Iraq, she pushed the thought out of her head that it could be John and went to bed. At 6:15 a.m. Monday, she got the news when soldiers arrived at her home.

"John was dedicated to his career; he had done it for 28 years. It was what he did," Donna Engeman said. Although she said her husband had contemplated retiring before being deployed to Iraq, he always was ready to serve.

"His unit needed him. He would never shirk from anything. He would never leave his unit in a lurch," she said proudly.

John Engeman, who grew up in a close-knit family with six brothers and sisters, graduated from Holy Family High School, formerly of South Huntington.

He joined the Army in 1978 and served overseas in such places as Korea and Wartburg, Germany, where he met his future wife. The couple had been married 23 years.

Two years ago, they moved to West Virginia, where John Engeman served as an active duty liaison between the National Guard and Army reserves. They have two children, Nicole, 20, a college student, and Patrick, 23, a second lieutenant stationed upstate at Fort Drum. He is expected to be deployed to Iraq in August.

Engeman's sister Patti O'Neill lives in Huntington.

"I hope he is remembered as a spectacular brother and son, incredible husband and a tremendous father with immense character and a great, great soldier who believed in the United States military and its mission," O'Neill said.

Donna Engeman said funeral arrangements are pending.

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