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Cuddeback, airman killed in Germany, was a Va. high school grad who loved hockey

The suspect in the slaying of two U.S. airmen at the Frankfurt airport confessed to targeting members of the American military in a case that German officials are treating as a possible act of Islamic terrorism. (March 3)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 6, 2011; 11:13 PM

One of the two U.S. airmen killed last week in an attack in Germany was a 21-year-old man who graduated from high school in Virginia and played hockey and started college in the state.

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Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, who graduated from William Monroe High School in Stanardsville, Va., was at the wheel of a bus at the Frankfurt airport when a man burst into the vehicle with a pistol. A second airman, identified as Nicholas J. Alden, was also killed in the Wednesday attack.

Cuddeback was "an Army brat" who had lived in many places, his parents said in a statement. After graduating from high school in Stanardsville, where the family lives, he spent a year at Old Dominion University in Norfolk before joining the Air Force in 2009.

His "love of the Air Force," cars and hockey "were paramount in his life," his parents said in the statement. They called him a "hockey player extraordinaire" who had spent a lot of time at the Charlottesville Ice Park.

Rich Appleby, coach of the club ice hockey team at Old Dominion, recalled Sunday that Cuddeback, a forward who played right and left wing, loved the game and "attended every practice and attended every game."

He was "always in a good mood" and "could take a big hit and get up and keep on playing," Appleby said. He "was out there just to have a lot of fun.''

The other players "really liked him," Appleby said.

A neighbor in Stanardsville, Diane Goerlitz-Blaisdell, said that after her husband died, Cuddeback would drop by to help.

"He was a wonderful young man," she said. Among other kindnesses, he climbed onto her roof and cleaned the gutters, she said.

Whenever a difficulty arose, she said, such as the time her fence collapsed, she could go to his house, knock on the door and be assured of help.

"He was an incredible young man," she said. "I miss him. I really do."

In their statement, the family said his "mother, De Loyet, father, Bob Cuddeback, and brother and best friend, Tim Cuddeback, will miss him sorely."

An Associated Press account said the gunman, identified as Arid Uka, a Kosovo Albanian, approached a bus at the Frankfurt airport and asked Alden for a cigarette, then whether he was headed for Afghanistan.

Alden answered yes and was shot point-blank. The gunman then clambered into the bus, shouting "Allahu akbar," and shot Cuddeback, who was assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron at Ramstein Air Base.

The account quoted German authorities as saying Uka also wounded two others before his pistol jammed.

It quoted a German prosecutor as saying that Uka had gone to the airport to kill Americans as revenge for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

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