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In Gibsonville, Virginia, today, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to a soldier who died in last week's Black Hawk helicopter crash in Iraq. Fourteen were killed in all.
One of the pilots was 28-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Paul Joshua Flynn, who went by Josh. He'd been on the Army for 10 years, but this was his first tour in Iraq.
From North Carolina Public Radio, Jessica Jones reports.
JESSICA JONES: Everyone who grew up with Josh Flynn says he was the most happy-go-lucky child you could ever imagine. As his parents, Patsy and Deleno Flynn, flipped through a towering pile of photographs, they stopped and stared at one of Josh's first formal childhood pictures. He is pouting and frowning like a clown, but his big, brown eyes sparkled with mischief.
Ms. PATSY FLYNN (Chief Warrant Officer Paul Flynn's Mother): I think somebody said something and he just wanted to say I'm mad, but he wasn't. He was trying not to smile.
Mr. DELENO FLYNN (Chief Warrant Officer Paul Flynn's Father): He looked - looked mad, but he was about to grin.
Ms. FLYNN: He always had fun.
JONES: His parents say Josh loved having a good time - fishing, hunting, going to the beach with his cousins. As they grew older, they continued having fun, so much, that by the time Josh was near the end of high school, the Flynns realized he wasn't bound for college.
Mr. FLYNN: He went in to the Army (unintelligible) asking him.
Ms. FLYNN: Well, we were afraid he wouldn't graduate.
Mr. FLYNN: Yeah, I figured after going in there, he'll realize, I need to go out and study to get a good job. That's what I really thought. And that's the way it was the first three or four years.
JONES: Josh's first Army job was as a Humvee mechanic. And as his father predicted, Josh didn't like it. But during his time off, he made a lot of friends. And he indulged in his passion for racing cars. That's how Josh met his wife-to-be. Dusty Flynn-Jackson says their 6-year-old son, Morgan, is exactly like his father.
Ms. DUSTY FLYNN-JACKSON (Chief Warrant Officer Paul Flynn's Wife): He dances like him. He is a flirt.
Mr. MORGAN FLYNN: No, I'm not.
Ms. FLYNN-JACKSON: Yes. Don't pinch me.
JONES: Dusty and her son sit outside on the front porch of the house. Huge trees block the view of a winding North Carolina country road. Dusty and Josh's cousin, Brandon Flynn, say Josh became more determined as he grew older.
Ms. FLYNN-JACKSON: He was always adventurous. He never feared anything - never - no matter what. If you said you can't do it, oh, he'd show you that he could, no matter.
Mr. BRANDON FLYNN (Chief Warrant Officer Paul Flynn's Cousin): Yeah. And he'd prove everybody wrong.
Ms. FLYNN-JACKSON: Yeah.
Mr. B. FLYNN: Because proving wrong would not - ad though not a bad way, just it's the way he was.
Ms. FLYNN-JACKSON: In anything and everything, he'd do it. He'll just say he could and he could.
JONES: Josh fantasized about becoming a pilot, so he decided to go for it. He managed to qualify for flight school. And to the surprise of his family, he finished in the top of his class, getting to fly Black Hawk helicopters. Shawn Whitsett(ph) was one of Josh's best friends.
Mr. SHAWN WHITSETT (Chief Warrant Officer Paul Flynn's Friend): As soon as he got into it, I could tell that he loved it more than anything he'd ever done before. And every time I was around him and he talked about it, his face would just lit up about it. I mean, he loved it. And I, when I spoke to him, when he was in Iraq, he was excited to be there, to say the least.
JONES: Being in Iraq and flying every day meant Josh could achieve his most recent goal: logging the flight time to become a pilot in command. He was on a night mission when his Black Hawk went down.
Paul Joshua Flynn received a full military funeral and was buried in his dress blues. He was an only child.
For NPR News, I'm Jessica Jones in Durham, North Carolina.
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