Thursday, February 15, 2007

Terrence D. Dunn dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Three hours before he was killed in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Terrence D. Dunn called his sister in Atascocita. Sharon Smith assured him, as she always did, that she was “holding down the fort” and told him about the care package she’d put in the mail earlier that day.

Dunn, a career soldier who served his 16 years in the Army in Germany, Bosnia, Africa, South Korea and Iraq, never got to eat the doughnuts or watch the videotapes of professional wrestling matches in the new combination DVD/VHS player she sent.

Dunn, 38, was killed Feb. 2 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol vehicle.

He was on his second tour in Iraq.

Dunn, who grew up in New Orleans and graduated high school in Pascagoula, Miss., called Atascocita home and had planned to retired there to the Eagle Springs community, said his sister. To his fellow soldiers, she added, Dunn was known as “Dunnaman.” “The general said that it was because if people wanted to get something done, they would call him,” Smith said. “He got things done.”

Meticulous in appearance

Dunn was proud of his uniform, taking time to properly affix the numerous awards bestowed upon him.

“I saw him getting ready to leave in his uniform one time and he stopped and re-did the pins. I asked him what he was doing and he said that his uniform had to be perfect,” said Smith, a retired schoolteacher and veteran of the Houston and Galena Park districts. “He loved being at home, lounging around in a T-shirt from one of his teams, but when he was in uniform it was a whole different story.” His family knew him as “Terry.”

“He was very quiet, he was the baby of the family. He’d sit back quietly and take everything in,” said another sister, Rosemary Marsalis, who is visiting from Georgia.

The youngest of six, Dunn was an avid wrestling fan, sitting on the front row of matches whenever possible.

“He’d have the T-shirts, knew about all of the wrestlers,” Smith said. “He would have me tape wrestling and football and send it over to Iraq, and if he went a while without getting a package he’d call and remind me.”

Marsalis and Smith each enjoyed a close relationship with their brother

the family mechanic, travel agent and technological whiz.

“He loved his family so much. When he was home last summer he spent an entire day teaching our niece Khelseia, who had just graduated from high school and had gotten a new car, how to back up and how to drive on the freeway. They spent an entire day driving around,” Smith said. When the sisters needed a printer, they each bought the same three-in-one kind that Dunn did “so that he could tell us how to work it.”

Dunn was due for leave in April and would’ve undoubtedly wanted Smith’s black-eyed peas and chicken tetrazzini.

The soldier looked forward to retiring to the Eagle Springs community in four years.

“The last time he was home we looked at houses and he said that he was ‘ready to retire,’ “ Smith said.

She added that her brother planned to “sit down and eat and watch sports, sports, sports and not ever worry about exercising again.” Dunn was extremely proud of his service, however. “He told our mother that he was a ‘real soldier now’ in one of his first letters home. We had no idea of all the awards he had won. He was humble and courageous, and served his country well,” Smith said, holding the Purple Heart awarded to Dunn at his funeral in Franklinton, La., on Saturday.

Paying the price every day

Her cell phone boasts a jazzy ring tone, a legacy from her brother’s last trip home.

“He told me that I needed a new phone, and I told him we would do that when he got home. I had to get the same kind that he had so he could teach me how to work it,” Smith said.

“He would say that he was ‘just doing his job’ when people asked him about his service. My brother truly was a hero -- but all of the soldiers are,” she said. “That’s what saddens me, these people are giving so much every day, and it takes something like this for people to realize it. Soldiers pay the price every day."

From the Chronicle