NBC News
updated 10/8/2004 7:42:12 PM ET 2004-10-08T23:42:12

The family of Robert Unruh brought his cremated remains to his final resting place Friday, in the shadows of the Huachuca mountains, southeast of Tucson. 

But this was a goodbye not only to one family member but two. Unruh's mother, 45-year-old Karen Wahrer, died one week after learning her son was killed in action.  

"God took him because he had a job to do and the job was so tough that his mom had to go along with him," says husband and father Dennis Wahrer.

U.S. military deaths in IraqRobert Unruh, troubled by the attacks of 9/11, enlisted as three generations of his family had done. The 25-year-old combat engineer was in Iraq less than a month when his unit took on small arms fire and he was fatally wounded. 

Last week, his mother spoke proudly of her son's service and of sacrifice. 

"War takes soldiers. Soldiers come from our families," Karen said.

Just a few days after Karen spoke to reporters, her son's body was flown home to Arizona. And just hours after identifying his remains, Karen collapsed in her kitchen and died.

Although the autopsy report is still pending, friends and family say Karen was destroyed by the loss of her son. 

"She died of a broken heart. I believe this," says friend Cheryl Hamilton.

"She had a love for that boy that was just unimaginable. And when it happened, I saw her give in to a depression I didn't see her coming out of," says Dennis Wahrer.

At Friday's service, Robert Unruh was posthumously awarded a bronze star, and a good conduct medal. His mother was recognized by those who knew her as a devoted mother whose remains now rest side-by-side with those of the son she dearly loved.

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