In Nicholas “Nick” Steinbacher’s last e-mail from Iraq on Dec. 9, the soldier who had just turned 22 told his family he was feeling great and was excited to be in Iraq. Steinbacher, an Army specialist who grew up in La Crescenta, had celebrated his birthday the previous day. He had been in Iraq just six weeks. “Nick told his guys (Army buddies), `If I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t be here,”‘ Steinbacher’s older brother, Daniel, 23, said. A day after the soldier sent the e-mail, he was traveling in a Humvee caravan patrolling a section of Baghdad when the unit ran into roadside bombs. Steinbacher – his family was notified this week – died in that attack. Just a few credits shy of his Associate of Arts degree from College of the Canyons, Nicholas Steinbacher enlisted in the Army. He did his basic training at Fort Bragg, Ga., and infantry training at Fort Hood, Texas, where he was stationed until his deployment. “Nick had enlisted in special-forces training,” his older brother said, “but during airborne training he’d broken a leg on his first jump, and that had taken him out of special forces and got him into infantry. “But he loved doing what he was doing. He had gotten a military package. He was going to have money to go to college, and he had the G.I. Bill, and he saw it as a way to prepare to be a police officer if that’s what he wanted to do.” His family was nervous when he was heading to war-torn Iraq, but he knew his mother and brothers – Daniel and Kirk, 18 – could draw on experience in coping with anxiety about a loved one’s work. “My dad (Paul) is a Los Angeles firefighter,” Daniel Steinbacher said. “We’re used to dealing with a certain level of stress just from that. “But the more nervous we got for Nick, as time for him to go got near, the more excited he got. He was proud to be going.” News of the death quickly circulated in the tightly knit La Crescenta community. “We’re extremely lucky to have the support of our community, the high school, our family, friends and the firefighter community,” Daniel Steinbacher said as he cherished memories of his brother, who “loved fishing and the outdoors,” having fun. “We camped out a lot growing up, and that’s what he loved to do. He loved to fish with his grandfather and with his buddies. “Mom had said to him that, being where he was, he might want to take advantage of some of the fishing. … But he said, `No, I want to come home and fish with my buddies.”‘ Funeral services are pending. The death has not shaken confidence among Nicholas’ family and friends that he was glad he enlisted, Daniel said. “Nick’s heroes were George Bush and Bill O’Reilly,” Daniel said. “He didn’t discount the fact that he might re-enlist and possibly make the military a career.” [email protected] (818) 713-3761160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’On Wednesday, as his parents busied themselves with the logistics of having their son’s body returned home, Daniel Steinbacher eulogized his brother as a modern American patriot willing to pay the ultimate price for his country. “He was proud to go to Iraq,” Daniel Steinbacher said. “Nick couldn’t stand being on the outside of the action. He didn’t like the idea of somebody else doing something that he could be doing, too. He thought there was a job to do over there and that it was his duty to do it.” Had it been up to Nicholas Steinbacher, he would have enlisted right after graduation from Crescenta Valley High School, where he had lettered in football four years and been the starting center his senior year, his brother said. “Nick wanted to be a police officer and had scored really high on his military-aptitude tests and was getting all kinds of (military) recruiting letters, but our parents persuaded him to go to college for a couple of years,” Daniel Steinbacher said. “He truly lived life in the moment,” his mother, Carolyn Steinbacher, said.