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Fourteen American soldiers were killed last Wednesday when their Blackhawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq. Among the fatalities was 21-year-old Jessy Pollard, an Army Ranger from Missouri. He was known for a smile, a smile that won the hearts of those who knew him.
From member station KSMU, Missy Shelton reports.
(Soundbite of students laughing)
MISSY SHELTON: The first day of school at Glendale High in Springfield, Missouri looked and sounded like any other day - dimly lit hallways packed with students, teachers monitoring the groups of chattering teens. What made this day different was that it started with news that a 2003 graduate had been killed in Iraq the day before.
Most of the students weren't around when Jessy Pollard was a student here, but Tracy Bruton was. She was his art teacher for three years. She says he had a special place in her heart.
Ms. TRACY BRUTON (Art Teacher, Glendale High School): He really responded well to people who were genuine because he was genuine. He was who he was. He was just a lot of fun to be around.
SHELTON: Jessy Pollard was also adored by his family, and it's evident in the photographs that hang on the walls of Jobie Goslee's home. Jessy Pollard was Goslee's oldest grandchild. In one of the photographs from a few years ago, he's reclining on the floor, decked out in a party hat, a huge smile on his face.
Mr. JOBIE GOSLEE (Jessy Pollard's Grandfather): There's a good one. That Jessy's raising cane, laying on my family room floor, smiling and enjoying being with the rest of his cousins.
SHELTON: Jessy Pollard had wanted to be a soldier for a long time. And after high school, he joined the Army and volunteered for Ranger school. Physically, he was such a big guy that he served as a backup for the commanding officer of his platoon.
He shipped out late last year and surprised his family just weeks ago when he came home for a short leave. Jobie Goslee knew when his grandson visited, he'd want to kid around about his height.
Mr. GOSLEE: I'm 6'4", and he was very tickled and rubbed it in to his granddad when he became taller than I.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. GOSLEE: He had a lot of fun with that. Whenever he would come home, he'd kind of put his arm around my shoulder and say, hi, granddad. And kind of look down at me, you know, so I'd remember that he was now taller than me.
SHELTON: Sydney Croxdale says she was like a grandmother to Jessy Pollard. She was there for many of the firsts in his life.
Ms. SYDNEY CROXDALE: For some reason we were keeping him for an evening, and took him out and bought him his first ice cream cone and managed to take home a chocolate ice cream-covered little boy who was very happy.
SHELTON: Those who knew Jessy Pollard say he kept that happiness as he grew up. Pollard had been expecting to transfer to Hawaii in October, and his family says he was thinking about becoming a career soldier.
For NPR News, I'm Missy Shelton in Springfield, Missouri.
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