Local soldier died days before leave

When Monica Estle looked out her window — and saw two military personnel standing at the door Saturday morning — she expected the news to be “the worst thing ever.”

She was notified her husband, Sgt. First Class Bobby Estle, a Lebanon resident and 1992 Warren County Career Center graduate, was shot in the stomach and killed by enemy fire that day in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

Estle, 38, with 20 years of military experience, was scheduled to come home to Lebanon for leave on Aug. 10, then return home from his current tour of duty on Oct. 22, his wife’s 38th birthday, she said.

This was to be his fourth — and final — tour of duty, she said. He served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Her husband “absolutely loved” the military, she said.

On Monday, Estle and her husband’s family were at Dover Air Force Base in Maryland to greet his flag-draped casket.

She called his death “still not real,” and added his three children are in “total disbelief.”

Funeral arrangements for Estle, who was part of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., are being handled by the Stine Kilburn Funeral Home on Monroe Road in Lebanon. Arrangements have not been set.

He is survived by his wife, three children, J.R. Marston, 20, Anthony Estle, 19, and Marieanna Estle, 12, a seventh-grader at Lebanon Junior High School; his parents, Robert and Debra Howard; and brother, Rob Howard.

Monica Estle, 37, a 1991 Kings High School graduate, said she was introduced to her future husband by mutual friends on July 4, 1997, when he was home on leave from Fort Knox. They were married two months later. She was attracted by his personality.

“He shined,” she said through tears. “When he was there, you knew he was in the room. He would help any soldier, any family member.”

She said her husband had “a major influence” on everyone he met, and numerous soldiers had texted her their condolences.

Estle became the fourth area soldier to die this year and 19th since 2003.

Pfc. Jose Oscar Belmontes, 28, of La Verne, Calif., also died from the attack, the Department of Defense said. The soldiers were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Estle and Belmontes were soldiers with the 630th Engineer Company, 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, the Department of Defense said.

Estle joined the Army in March 1993. After training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Jackson, S.C. and arrived at Fort Drum in January 2010. Estle deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 to June 2004 and November 2005 to November 2006. He deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in February 2010 to July 2010. Estle deployed with his unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2011, according to the Army.

His awards and decorations include: the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, seven Army Achievement Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal, five Army Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

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