RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Last month in Iraq, Private First Class John Landry, Jr. was killed by a roadside bomb. It was a week after he returned from leaving Massachusetts. He and three other service members were killed in Baghdad.
From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports.
CURT NICKISCH: At Lowell Catholic High School, John Landry was a big burly boy who wore a gold necklace with a four-leaf clover for good luck. His freshman English teacher, Colleen Tully, says Landry was a B student, not the type that chair committees or run for class president. Still, he stood out.
Ms. COLLEEN TULLY (English teacher, Lowell Catholic High School): First of all, you have to know he was a funny, funny kid.
NICKISCH: Tully remembers how after the war started in Afghanistan, she had the class write letters to a school alumnus deployed there. She says while most students wrote obvious things, like we're proud of you, Landry kept it real.
Ms. TULLY: And he said, well, you know, I just wanted to tell you what's going on back here in Lowell. In case you're wondering, they finished the Pizza Hut on Chelmsford Street. So he's like, telling it like local news. Like really local news. Things that were important to him, what would be important to a 14-year-old; a new Pizza Hut, that was right down the street.
NICKISCH: The other night, some of Landry's former teachers and classmates got together at the school for a prayer service.
Unidentified Man #1: What is that? What is that?
Unidentified Man #2: It's right there.
Unidentified Man #1: This right here?
Unidentified Man #3: I don't know...
NICKISCH: Outside the auditorium afterwards, some of his friends smiled looking at photos, including one where Landry is dancing in a fireman's helmet and yellow rain slickers in a freshman induction ritual.
Unidentified Man #4: He says his leg started spinning.
Unidentified Man #5: Yeah.
Unidentified Man #6: Spinning like a wild man.
NICKISCH: One of his friends, Chris Arguoyan, had leg surgery in high school, and on crutches struggled on the stairs. He says Landry would carry his books between classes.
Mr. CHRIS ARGUOYAN (Friend): No matter, you know, if he had like a test next period, he wouldn't mind being late, you know? So he's always one of those guys who'd do anything for you. He (unintelligible) to the end. He had a type of heart and, you know, like a loyalty that few people have.
NICKISCH: That was evident on the football field too, where Landry played as a lineman. His coach, Tim Walsh, says Landry made the most of what he had.
Mr. TIM WALSH (Coach): He had a certain amount of talent, but he had a great deal of desire. A very tough kid, very committed. He was in the pits, so to speak - football people know what I'm talking about - he would get down and dirty and mix it up with anybody and not back up.
NICKISCH: Landry also held fast to his goal of serving in the Army. He joined after graduating in 2005. A rifleman in the 1st Cavalry Division, he deployed to Iraq last fall. His uncle, Bill Landry, says some of the things John saw there brought out his soft side.
Mr. BILL LANDRY (Uncle of John Landry, Jr.): They were out on a patrol and he called home. He was upset because they found a dead puppy. And he wanted to bury the puppy and everything. It was just unbelievable, the kid.
NICKISCH: Army Private First Class John Landry, Jr. died in Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. It was March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, a day that now for his former teacher, Colleen Tully, will always be linked to Landry's memory.
Ms. TULLY: Aside from the fact that nobody would say anything negative about him now anyway, but I really don't think anybody would have anything bad to say about John Landry. He just - what a delightful human being he was. And it just, so it just kills you. It just kills you.
NICKISCH: John Landry, Jr. was 20 years old.
For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch.
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