Remembering Army Cpl. Scott Bandhold

Army Cpl. Scott Bandhold, who met his death in Iraq, joined the service late in life. As Kathleen Horan of member station WNYC reports, he traveled the world as a dancer before knee problems ended that career.

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DON GONYEA, host:

Three years ago tomorrow, President Bush landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and while standing before a banner stating, Mission Accomplished, he declared that major combat operations in Iraq had been completed.

Since that day, more than 1,675 American military personnel have died in combat in Iraq, including at least 70 fatalities this month, the deadliest month of the year so far for American forces.

Corporal Scott Bandhold was killed in Iraq on April 12th by a roadside bomb. Corporal Bandhold was assigned to the 1st Battalion in Ford Hood, Texas. But he grew up in a town called Merrick, on New York's Long Island.

From member station WNYC, Kathleen Horan has this remembrance.

KATHLEEN HORAN reporting:

Scott Bandhold enlisted just in time to beat the Army's age deadline. He had two kids, an ex-wife, and held jobs as varied as a Disneyworld dancer, an Amway salesman, and a collections agent.

People in his hometown knew him mostly for pursuits that had little to do with the military. At Mary Bill's(ph) diner, one of the owners, Nick Colkous(ph), remembers Bandhold as a fixture there with his favorite menu item.

Mr. NICK COLKOUS (Mary Bill's Diner, Merrick, New York): Cheeseburger. I made more cheeseburgers for him than anybody else.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COLKOUS: Oh, God, don't make me cry. I can see his smile.

HORAN: Nick's wife, Mary, says they saw Bandhold grow up over those cheeseburgers.

Ms. MARY COLKOUS (co-owner of Mary Bill's Diner, Merrick, New York): They'd go to school, they were coming in, and then you went through all the parts of his life with him. When we'd get to different parts he was happy. He was happy when he found somebody, got married, his children, you know, all this, you go through it with them.

HORAN: Bandhold took his first dance lesson at seven years old. His teacher, Donna Schaffer(ph), says Scott was hooked soon after that first class.

Ms. DONNA SCHAFFER (Dance Instructor): He was so eager to learn. He was hungry all the time. He just, he couldn't get enough. He never wanted to leave when class was over, he just wanted to stay. And he did.

HORAN: But Bandhold's older brother, Joe, says the ballet, jazz, and tap came at a price.

Mr. JOE BANDHOLD (Brother of Scott Bandhold): I loved the dancing, I thought that was a great thing, but he took a lot of flack for that. That just didn't go down well. His peers just tore him up about it. It bothered him.

HORAN: Schaffer says the harassment Bandhold received did not keep him from class.

Ms. SCHAFFER: You have to be really brave. You have to be very sure of who you are as a man when you're dancing. It did not deter Scott.

HORAN: That's part of why brother Joe was surprised when Scott gave up dancing to enlist.

Mr. BANDHOLD: I was not for it. I kind of wanted him to continue on, try to do, he's an entertainer to me. And I loved that, because that's what he was good at doing. And not that he didn't become a good soldier, but I think, you know, the world needs more fun stuff. That's what was bothersome about it.

HORAN: Bandhold decided to change course when he saw the Twin Towers fall on television. Schaffer says everyone tried to talk him out of joining the Army.

Ms. SCHAFFER: I can remember his dad and I standing in the dance room, trying to talk him out of it. And he had this calling, and that was that.

HORAN: His former wife, Anna, says its Bandhold's passion that she'll miss the most.

Ms. ANNA BANDHOLD (Scott Bandhold's Former Wife): He was magic. He was the great energy to this world. He was confident, he was not scared. He was a joy.

HORAN: She hopes that's what her children, ages nine and ten, will also remember about their dad.

For NPR News, I'm Kathleen Horan, in New York.

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