Young Soldier Killed in Iraq

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For his 17th birthday, LeRon Wilson's mother gave him permission to enlist in the Army. Pfc. Wilson, 18, of Queens, N.Y., was killed in Iraq earlier this month by a roadside bomb.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

Also, we take a few moments to remember a young American soldier who was killed in Iraq this month.

Private First Class Le Ron Wilson was from the Queens, New York, neighborhood of Rosedale. He was 18 when a roadside bomb killed him and his sergeant as they patrolled an area south of Baghdad.

NPR's Jack Zahora reports.

JACK ZAHORA: Le Ron Wilson wasn't even 18 when he enlisted in the Army. He considered his mother's permission a birthday gift.

Ms. SIMONA FRANCIS (Le Ron Wilson's Mother): He says, don't buy me anything. He says, I just want you to sign the paper. That's what I want for my birthday.

ZAHORA: On the day of his graduation last year, he went straight from the ceremony to the recruiting office. Simona Francis says she was taken aback by her son's interest in serving. He was a computer whiz. She figured her son would go to college. But Wilson had this unusual fascination with guns.

Ms. FRANCIS: Well, we never, you know, really (unintelligible) toward the military but he loved guns from a young age. And as he grew old, he never lost that passion for it.

ZAHORA: Wilson never owned any guns but he spent hours reading about them on the Internet. Wilson's uncle says he could tell you everything about a side arm down to the metal used to make it. But John Wilson didn't understand his nephew's preoccupation with these weapons.

Mr. JOHN WILSON (Le Ron Wilson's Uncle): Come on. That is what you're doing on the Internet? He was, like, yes, this is what I want to do. I want to join the Army and fix things like that, you know.

ZAHORA: And Wilson's mother says when he decided to join the military, she made another connection.

(Soundbite of computer games)

Unidentified Man #1: Jackson(ph), I'm hit. (Unintelligible) Closing in on your position. I can't tell who's who.

ZAHORA: Wilson played a lot of video games. And one in particular, it was based on a Tom Clancy novel.

Ms. FRANCIS: He had one called "Ghost Recon." I think that's a military, same(ph) with missions and stuff.

ZAHORA: Weeks before leaving Iraq, Wilson told her that he was going to invest his signing bonus, but…

Ms. FRANCIS: Once I called him, I said, oh, your bonus. And then he, you know, hoo, hoo, Hawaii, here I come.

ZAHORA: In a home movie, Wilson and his friend Mark Aquino dived off Hawaii's Maunawili waterfalls.

Mr. LE RON WILSON (Private First Class, U.S. Army): I'm about to jump.

Mr. MARK AQUINO (Le Ron Wilson's Friend): Great.

Mr. WILSON: (unintelligible)

(Soundbite of splash)

Mr. WILSON: Woo(ph), hoo-hoo(ph).

ZAHORA: In the movie, Wilson sports blue trunks and a medium muscular built, having bulked up from basic training. Mark Aquino says that's where he met his friend.

Mr. AQUINO (Le Ron Wilson's Friend): One of the best guys I've ever met. One of the best soldiers I've ever met. I feel sorry for anybody that never met Le Ron Wilson.

ZAHORA: Wilson's mother says in Iraq, her son was supposed to live out his dream fixing guns and tanks. But the Army reassigned him to infantry. And at that time, his unit needed someone to canvass an area south of Baghdad, ahead of the other soldiers.

Ms. FRANCIS: And I said, please tell me you didn't volunteer for this. And he did. He said no one else wanted to do it. And they were supposed to - each unit was supposed to send someone. So he volunteered.

ZAHORA: That was the last time Simona Francis spoke to her son. On July 6th, a roadside bomb killed Private First Class Le Ron Wilson. The military found a note in his pocket entrust to a friend back home. He wrote about having a bad feeling about that particular mission. He also gave instructions that in case anything bad happened, his mother should get his computer. This last will and testament was needed(ph) a mere six weeks after Wilson arrived in Iraq.

Jack Zahora, NPR News.

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