A Life Filled with Promise Cut Short
NOAH ADAMS, host:
It's ALL THING CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.
Friends and family of Captain Torre Mallard use a string of nouns when they talk about him - scholar, athlete, man of faith. Mallard and two other soldiers were killed in Iraq earlier this month. Their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. Torre Mallard was born in Alabama, graduated from West Point. And this week, as the U.S. marks the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq, Mallard is being honored for his dedication and determination.
From member station WBHM, Andrew Yeager has a report.
ANDREW YEAGER: At the 17th Street Baptist Church in Aniston, Alabama, things are hopping in the kitchen, with trays of food going in and out the door. Ana Washington has been here all day, helping prepare the menu.
Ms. ANA WASHINGTON: We are Baptist people, so we have fried chicken, we have rotisserie chicken, we have ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans…
YEAGER: The food is for mourners who have just been to a memorial service which was part remembrance, part revival, and part pep rally. There's an undercurrent of sadness as they celebrate the life of Captain Torre Mallard. But there are hugs, smiles, and joy too. Mallard was born in Aniston. And while he's described as serious from an early age, his younger brother Terrence says he really wasn't so rigid.
Mr. TERRENCE MALLARD (Torre Mallard's Brother): He's actually more laid back than most people think. But when it came down to work and school, and getting things done, and that's when he flips the switch.
YEAGER: While the family called Alabama home and much of their extended family is here, because Mallard's father was in the military, they moved a lot -Germany, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana. It was in Germany, at about second or third grade, Mallard made a transaction his mother Robin says he never lived down. He really wanted to skateboard. His father relented, despite giving him a bike a year earlier. After a while, his father noticed Mallard wasn't playing with it.
Ms. ROBIN MALLARD (Torre Mallard's Mother): So, Torre had to tell him that he traded the skateboard. He went to Burger King and there was a bigger kid. Told him that their watch was super, it was better than a skateboard. So, he traded the skateboard for that Burger King watch.
YEAGER: While Mallard may have swapped the skateboard for a fast food prize, he didn't compromise in the classroom. He'd always been an A student, although with the rigors of West Point, he made his first C that first semester. He persisted playing defensive back in sprint football, and was on the Army boxing team. He graduated with a computer science degree serving his first tour in Iraq the next year. Mallard was then promoted to captain; something his brother Terrence says had a lot of meaning.
Mr. MALLARD: It mean to him that he was actually moving fast. And I actually teased him a little bit, but I thought he was going to be a major before he's 30.
YEAGER: Torre Mallard was 27 when he was killed March 10th. Besides these relatives in this packed Aniston Church, Mallard leaves behind a wife and two children under the age of two. His mother says Mallard had applied to the FBI, but he also considered going back to school so he could teach future Army recruits at West Point.
For NPR News, I'm Andrew Yeager.