Pain lingers for officer's family

Kin of lieutenant allegedly killed by soldier await verdict

Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Monday, September 29, 2008

CHESTER - Vivian Allen's son was not about to get married. He always told her so.

Then one night in July 1994, he met 21-year-old Barbara Obremski at a tavern in Orange County. She had only reluctantly gone out that night, coaxed by her sister, to meet a guy named Tim.

But when Tim showed up with a girlfriend in tow, she laughed it off and went outside.

It was just in time to spot Louis Allen, Tim's dark-haired best friend, arriving in a small red car. They started talking inside the bar.

And within a year, they were engaged.

"I was instantly drawn to him," Barbara Allen told the Times Union via e-mail Friday.

"A while later we wound up talking, and that was it. We spent the entire night outside, walking and talking, and I was completely hooked. By some miracle he was, too, and we just sort of knew this was a good thing."

Fourteen years later, she is still in love with Louis Allen, father of her four boys, schoolteacher and officer in the New York Army National Guard, and, Army prosecutors say, a victim of one of his fellow soldiers. On June 7, 2005, on a military base in Tikrit, Iraq, explosions fatally wounded First Lt. Allen, 34, and Capt. Phillip Esposito, 30, of Suffern, Rockland County.

Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez, a National Guardsman from Rensselaer County, allegedly detonated a Claymore mine, killing the officers as they played Risk in Esposito's room. Martinez, whose murder trial begins Oct. 7 in Fort Bragg, N.C., faces execution if convicted.

Siobhan Esposito, the late captain's wife, declined to comment on the case.

But the devastation is clear through Barbara Allen, who said, `the pain of his death is magnified by the circumstances and needlessness ... were it not for the love of my children, friends, and family I would not have made it through those first few months."

Her husband had arrived in Iraq on a Friday. He was there four days.

Every year around D-Day, Robert and Vivian Allen have escaped to Maine to celebrate their June 6, 1964, wedding anniversary. They were there in June 2005, in a hotel room preparing to leave for breakfast, when the phone rang about 7:20 a.m. It was their son-in-law, Richard Jackson, and he was clearly distraught.

"Rich," Robert Allen told him after picking up, "calm down and tell me what you have to tell me."

That was how the Allens learned their fourth child had been killed in Iraq. It was not until June 16, as they got into a limousine at his funeral, that they learned this was no ordinary war death.

"To think that there's a traitor in your midst," Robert Allen said Thursday, sitting across from his wife in their two-story Colonial home on a tree-lined street, "it's just too hard to bear." As he spoke, Allen, an Air Force veteran and retired NYPD captain, wore a sweat shirt that bears his son's name and rank.

Allen's loved ones want nothing less than death for his accused killer. They have already made 10 trips between hearings in Fort Bragg, Arlington, Va., and even Kuwait.

"My son did not have to die," Vivian Allen said.

The Brooklyn-bred couple, set up by mutual friends, married in 1965. Soon came three children: Robert, Laurene and Jennifer. Two more, Louis and Victoria, were born when they moved to Chester, Orange County, in the late 1960s.

The future lieutenant was born July 20, 1970. He shares the same birthday as his father and, years later, his son Sean. A photo on the wall shows all three together.

Louis Allen, a Rangers hockey fan and valued handyman around the house, graduated from Binghamton University with a degree in analytical geography. He drove trucks for a time, but after breaking his wrist, that ended. He later told his father, "I'll become a teacher."

His son, a reservist with the 101st Calvary Regiment in Newburgh, became a science teacher in Tuxedo, Orange County. Even when he went to Iraq, he did not forget the students, sending an e-mail offering to help students with their earth science or physics Regents.

"They put a book out there for the kids to write their impressions after he was killed," Robert Allen recalled, "and one of the kids wrote how he would come into the lunchroom, see his kids in the class sitting in one spot and the teachers over here and he'd sit with the kids in the class, talk to them about the Rangers, about his kids and everything."

Vivian Allen recalls their last conversation. It was June 4, 2005. Louis reassured her his American base, Saddam Hussein's former "Water Palace" in Tikrit, was secure - and by Iraq standards, it was considered to be.

"He said, 'Mom, Don't worry - I'm in a safe place,' " Vivian Allen remembered, adding, "It wasn't so safe."

Vivian Allen recalled her surprise the day her son showed off the engagement ring he bought for Barbara 10 months after they met. By July 2005, Louis Allen's young family was living in Milford, Pa. He and Barbara had four children: Trevor, Colin, Sean and Jeremy.

Barbara Allen conceded she and Louis "really had no idea what we were in for" in having a household of children, but "wouldn't trade any of it."

She is a mother and unexpected Army widow, seeking justice while cherishing the memories, even trying ones, of the man she met that night in 1994 and the life they would build together.

"Meeting Lou changed my life," she wrote. "He taught me how to laugh at myself, got me mad at him and then instantly made me forget why I was mad. We had no money and so grew skilled at creating fun at home."

"Hard times stressed us out and worried us but also brought us closer together. He loved to make fun of me when I was pregnant. He could barely stand to watch our babies being born. He told me I was beautiful even when I was anything but. He loved when our kids smelled like sunblock and dreamed of the chance to take them all to the ocean when they were bigger. He was without a doubt an extremely loving and devoted daddy."

'I see him in my kids now," she wrote, "and he is still with me."

Robert Gavin can be reached at 434-2403 or by e-mail at