Colorado Marine Chose to Lead, Serve in Iraq Marine Cpl. Kyle W. Powell of Colorado Springs, Colo., died earlier this month in Fallujah, Iraq. The 21-year-old was on his third combat tour when a roadside bomb he discovered detonated, killing Powell and a fellow Marine.
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Colorado Marine Chose to Lead, Serve in Iraq

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Colorado Marine Chose to Lead, Serve in Iraq

Colorado Marine Chose to Lead, Serve in Iraq

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When Kyle Powell died earlier this month in Fallujah, he was just six weeks shy of his 22nd birthday. The Marine corporal from Colorado Springs was on his third combat tour in Iraq when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

From member station KRCC in Colorado Springs, Eric Whitney has this remembrance.

ERIC WHITNEY: Kyle Powell was born in an army hospital and spent most of his life in uniform. It was a Boy Scout uniform to begin with, and Kyle thrived in the scouting life. He racked up merit badges and won the 100-mile hiking award. Earl Spry(ph) was his Scoutmaster.

Mr. EARL SPRY (Mr. Powell's Scoutmaster): We camped every month of the year, and I don't recall that Kyle missed any of the camping, including the less enjoyable snow caving.

WHITNEY: Spry says he knew right away that Kyle would made Eagle Scout. He was the kind of young man, he says, who enjoyed challenges - like the time they went winter camping on the side of Pike's Peak. The peak is well above 10,000 feet in elevation.

Mr. SPRY: Just seeing his expression, enjoying it, at six above zero.

WHITNEY: Kyle could enjoy himself, Spry says, because he built a wall out of snow to protect his camp from the wind. Years later, Kyle would win the Navy Achievement Medal for building something else - it was a bunker that withstood attack and saved the lives of Marines inside.

(Soundbite of music, "Taps")

WHITNEY: Corporal Kyle Powell's fellow Marines paid tribute to him at his funeral in Colorado Springs with a rifle salute.

(Soundbite of gunshots)

WHITNEY: Gunnery Sergeant Sean Hannah(ph) was his platoon leader in Iraq.

Gunnery Sergeant SEAN HANNAH (Mr. Powell's Platoon Leader in Iraq): He wanted to be up and front and he wanted to lead. He wanted to be in charge. Even though he wasn't a senior Marine, he would take charge and lead them senior Marines if they didn't want to lead. He led everybody.

WHITNEY: And it wasn't just Marines who recognized Kyle's desire to lead. High school friend Jessica McCowen(ph) said he went out of his way to help put younger kids on the right path.

Ms. JESSICA MCCOWEN (Mr. Powell's High School Friend): So I think it's just that he wanted to see the future of America grow up into a brighter, more positive image instead of the current image that teenagers have - you know, sex, drugs, alcohol kind of thing.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Yesterday is gone, I'm all alone...

WHITNEY: At his funeral, soft music played over a video showing images of Kyle as a skinny, toe-headed boy with big ears and a big grin growing into manhood. High school photos captured him in soccer and football uniforms, and, of course, as a Boy Scout. Former Scoutmaster Earl Spry was there.

Spry, a retired army infantry officer, says he's proud of Kyle.

Mr. SPRY: There can't be a better death than dying in service to your country. I wouldn't want it to happen to any other scouts that I knew so well over that period of 10 years. I wouldn't want it to happen. But at the same time that the country's at war, I would expect them to do their share.

WHITNEY: Kyle Powell volunteered for his last two tours in Iraq, stepping up to fill unmanned positions, even though he knew it would put him in some dangerous places. His last mission found him - friends say typically - in the lead, on foot in front of a squad of Marines scouting for hidden bombs. He was unable to disarm the one that he and another Marine found. It exploded and killed them both.

He leaves behind his parents, David and Nancy Powell, and his sister, Megan.

For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney in Colorado Springs.

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