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A small desert town in Arizona recently suffered its first casualty of the Iraq war. 25-year-old Patrick Tinnell from Lake Havasu City was killed last month by a suicide bomber while he was on patrol in Iraq.
From Arizona Public Radio, Laurel Druley has this remembrance.
LAUREL DRULEY reporting:
Patrick Tinnell was accustomed to harrowing stunts. As a BMX bicycle rider, he had even jumped over an elephant once. Last month, he was positioned as a scout leading a troop of vehicles when the humvee he was riding in was blown up by a suicide bomber. Tinnell, whose death saved the lives of four others, won a Purple Heart among other honors. His mother, Debbie Tinnell, will remember him as a devoted son.
Mr. DEBBIE TINNELL (Mother of fallen soldier Patrick Tinnell): He loved to tease me. He teased me till I couldn't stand it. But in the same hand, he loved me with all his heart and I knew that. He made sure every day he would tell me he loved me when he could. He was my rock.
DRULEY: When she dropped him off at the Phoenix Airport to go to basic training, she tried to talk him out of joining the Army.
Ms. TINNELL: And I said I was hoping you'd change your mind and get back in this car. He said, no mom, this is something I want to do. And I said, you do a good job like I've always taught you to do. Do your best. He said that's what I'll do, mom. And that's what he did.
DRULEY: Tinnell's father and brother are in jail but he found refuge at the local bike shop as a teenager. He spent many years riding and working for the shop. Glen Glass is the owner. He says the kids at the bike shop, many of them troubled, were like a family.
Mr. GLEN GLASS (Bike shop owner): It's literally like just taking a piece out of you and just missing an arm or a leg. That's how much a lot of these kids, now young adults, counted on this young man.
DRULEY: Glass says three of Tinnell's friends who are also serving in Iraq, have requested a switch to Tinnell's infantry to honor their friend and his death.
Mr. GLASS: He literally saved lives while putting his own life in harm's way. I got to say, I told you so. He proved many wrong and God bless him for proving me right.
DRULEY: About 30 of Tinnell's friends, now young adults, rode their bikes to the funeral. And since the funeral, Tinnell's mother, Debbie, has continued to receive cards and letters. She says she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community.
Ms. TINNELL: The hardest, probably the hardest thing in your life you're going to do is to bury one of your own children. You know, if I could trade tomorrow, I would give my life for his. But unfortunately that didn't happen and I will always be proud of him.
DRULEY: More than 1,000 people attended Tinnell's funeral. He was given full military honors.
For NPR News, I'm Laurel Druley.
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