Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kelly D. Youngblood slain by sniper

PHOENIX - A soldier from Mesa has been killed in Iraq less than three weeks into his deployment there, according to his family.

Pvt. Kelly Youngblood, 19, died Sunday after he was hit by sniper fire in Ramadi, his family said Tuesday.

"Ever since he was a little boy, he wanted to be in the military," said his mother, Kristen Chacon. "It was like he was answering a call."

Youngblood, who attended Tempe's McClintock High School and Rhodes Junior High and Alma Elementary School in Mesa, enlisted in the Army as soon as he turned 18.

His grandmother, Jean Herrold, said he wouldn't give up on his dream of giving back to his country, despite her pleas.

"He just told me not to worry about him, that he loved everything about the military," Herrold said. "I think he was born to be a soldier."

Chacon said she tried to remain optimistic about her son's deployment to Iraq until he told her about a narrow escape in a bombing that killed four soldiers a few days after he arrived. She said shrapnel missed him by 8 feet.

"My first thought was that he was not going to make it," Chacon said. "It was just too dangerous."

Herrold said Youngblood was "was the funniest person I know."

By the fourth grade, he was already popular for his humor and always had a lot of friends, his mother said.

Youngblood also loved playing pranks on his roommates in the Army, Chacon said.

"Kelly would hide somewhere where his fellow soldiers could not see him," she said, "and then jump out and blow a horn to scare them."

Youngblood's family said he thought about continuing to serve in the Army, where he drove a tank, after returning from Iraq.

"He liked the service, the discipline and camaraderie between his colleagues," Herrold said.

Funeral services were not announced but his family said he would be buried in Arizona.

From the Star