ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Army Captain Douglas DiCenzo died when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad last week. As Shannon Mullen of member station WEVO reports, his death has hit his small New Hampshire town hard.
SHANNON MULLEN reporting:
At Doug DiCenzo's high school, Plymouth High, those who knew him say he was one of their brightest students.
Mr. NORM LEBLANC (Plymouth High School Guidance Counselor): He stood out as a gentleman even when he was eight, nine years old.
MULLEN: Guidance counselor Norm LeBlanc first got to know DiCenzo when he coached him in little league baseball.
Mr. LEBLANC: I picture a kid that never stopped smiling. He was a bundle of energy and everyone loved Doug. He had a lot of poise, character and humility.
MULLEN: LeBlanc says DiCenzo continued to stand out in high school. By his senior year, he was class president, captain of his football and wrestling teams and he took all advanced placement classes. When he graduated in 1995, his classmates voted him teacher's pet and most likely to succeed. Doug's mom, Cathy Crane says when they looked at colleges, West Point was his first choice.
Ms. CATHY CRANE (Mother of Douglas DiCenzo): He liked Annapolis but when we got to West Point, he was like, this is it and he was hooked, would not apply to one other school.
MULLEN: DiCenzo graduated from West Point in 1999 and his stepfather Mark Burzynski says he rose up the ranks quickly.
Mr. MARK BURZYNSKI (Stepfather to Douglas DiCenzo): If he'd been promoted in three years, he got promoted in one. If it took two to four years, he got there in two. You know, whatever it was.
Ms. CRANE: First lieutenant, second lieutenant, captain.
Mr. BRZINSKI: Yeah just moving along.
Ms. CRANE: Yeah. Major would've been next.
MULLEN: Before DiCenzo was deployed to Iraq, he was stationed in Germany in the First Armored Division. One of his mom's favorite stories comes from a recent trip there to meet her new grandson, Dakin(ph).
Ms. CRANE: We went to visit and he says, we're going to walk to dinner. It's just over the hill. Now we're in downtown Heidelberg, a little bit of snow on the ground. We traipsed three miles at least.
Mr. BRZINSKI: Up the side of a mountain.
Ms. CRANE: Up the side of a mountain, over fields to this farmhouse that was the most unbelievable restaurant. It was off the charts and it was, that was so Doug, and we just laughed about that. That was great. Hey Doug let's go out to dinner.
Mr. BRZINSKI: It's just a little hike.
Ms. CRANE: Yeah, just a little hike.
MULLEN: DiCenzo got to Iraq last winter and he was in charge of about 130 enlisted men. When he called home, he only talked about the positive things he was seeing and doing.
Ms. CRANE: He said we're doing so much good over here, he goes, you should just see it, he goes. What's been built and he really felt they were making a difference with the kids. He goes, the kids are the future of Iraq.
Mr. BRZINSKI: The only thing he didn't like about being in Iraq was he was away from his son and his wife.
MULLEN: On May 25th, in the middle of the afternoon, DiCenzo's family got the call from Germany saying he'd been killed. Since then, Crane says the show of support from her community has been overwhelming.
Ms. CRANE: I guess the sad part is, couldn't it be reverse? Couldn't we feel all that support while the soldiers are over there doing their jobs every day versus after the fact? You know, I mean it's making us feel wonderful. It's just one of those things you say. I hope they felt that.
MULLEN: Captain Doug DiCenzo was 30 years old. He requested a military send off with Taps and a rifle salute. After the service, his family will honor another request and raise a few glasses of beer to celebrate his life.
For NPR News, I'm Shannon Mullen.
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