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Charlotte Observer: Slain Soldier From Shelby Leaves Spirit Of Caring, Love

Christopher Newman.

Christopher Newman As a teenager, Christopher Newman and his grandfather talked a lot about the older man's service in the Marines, and the positive impact it had on his life. It wasn't long before Newman decided he too would join the military. He enlisted right after graduating from Shelby's Crest High School in 2004. An Army sergeant, Newman helped run a psychiatric ward and counseled other soldiers who'd been hurt, lost friends or just needed to talk about life in the military. "All he wanted to do in his life was help other people out," said his younger brother, Brent Newman. "And that's what he died doing. He was helping people out." Newman, 26, was killed Saturday, when family members say the bus he was riding in was attacked by a suicide car bomber in Afghanistan. The convoy was on the way to a hospital, Newman's family said. The Department of Defense had not yet released the names of casualties from the attack by Monday night, but a story on its website reported that five servicemen were among the 13 killed in the bombing. Newman had been stationed in Afghanistan since May, his family said. He was due to return home for a two-week stay next month. The day before he died, he asked a cousin what he wanted for Christmas. Days earlier, a shipment of other gifts had arrived. Christopher Newman was born in Myrtle Beach, but he and his brother were raised by their grandparents in Shelby. Teresa Gregory said her nephew "was as smart as he could be" and quick to make others laugh and smile. "You could not help but love him," Gregory said. "He was just a wonderful person." As kids, the Newman brothers and their cousins would hang out, playing ball or swimming. Weekends brought sleepovers. Some family members said they were not surprised when Newman said he wanted to go into the military. He was first stationed in San Antonio, then spent a few years in Hawaii. He learned this spring he would be deployed to Afghanistan. Before he left, Newman returned to Shelby. Randy Birch, who called Newman "my cousin, best friend and brother," said the soldier made sure to visit all his family members to tell them he loved them. He also made sure to visit Patterson Springs Baptist Church, which he attended as a child. He spent several hours there and spoke with the preacher. "It was just like he wanted to make sure everything was right in his life because he was being deployed," Teresa Gregory said. While overseas, Newman would stay in almost daily contact with his family, talking with them using an instant messaging service on Facebook. Justin Gregory said his cousin tried to convince him to join the service. Newman told him he felt any career Gregory wanted could be enhanced by going through the military. Newman had talked of wanting to retire from the military. "He was so proud to be a solider," Birch said. "It was exactly what he should have done." Relatives said they could see the impact the Army was having in Newman's life. As he got older, he would offer advice and encouragement to those around him and grew much closer to relatives. "You could see the love he had for everyone," Gregory said. "He wanted them to know that he cared." Newman is also survived by his wife, Amanda, who lives in Texas, and a 5-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. Family members traveled to Dover, Del., over the weekend to claim Newman's body. Plans for a funeral service were not complete on Monday. Marion Paynter contributed Bethea: 704-358-6013. Copyright 2011 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.