Friday, March 30, 2007

Adrian J. Lewis killed by small arms fire

U.S. Army Sgt. Adrian J. Lewis witnessed the birth of his youngest daughter two weeks before he shipped out for his third tour in Iraq.

He won't hear her first words or see her first step.

Lewis, 30, was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, on March 21, after an encounter with enemy forces involving small-arms fire, the U.S. Defense Department reported Sunday.

The soldier, who grew up in Mauldin, left behind four children and a wife, Amanda Lewis.

"He was my best friend. He was my everything," she said at her mother's packed Simpsonville home Sunday.

Lewis' father, Jerome Harrison, said his oldest son loved his platoon and refused to leave his men. They looked up to him, Harrison said.

The sergeant once even sent money to a soldier who couldn't get back to base after going home for the holidays, he said.

"I questioned him many times: 'Why didn't you get a transfer after you went (to Iraq)?' He loved what he did," Harrison said.

Amanda Lewis said her husband wanted to go to Iraq the first two times but not the third.

"A lot of it had to do with the fact that the baby was just born," she said.

Amanda Lewis said her cousin set her up with her husband when she was at J.L. Mann High and he was at Southside High.

They had a child together and went their separate ways until reuniting seven years later and getting married.

"It was like we hadn't missed a beat," Amanda Lewis said.

After high school, Adrian Lewis worked for Michelin through a temporary employment agency, his father said. He called in 2000 and said, "There's nothing here for me," Harrison recalled.

Lewis told his father he was joining the Army.

Harrison said that putting on the uniform changed his son. His troops treated him like a father figure, Harrison said.

"I was impressed the way they took to him," he said.

Lewis served in Germany and Kosovo before the Iraq war started, his wife said. His first two tours were in Fallujah and Baghdad, she said.

If he had any doubts about surviving, he never expressed them to his wife.

"He promised me he was coming back home all the way to end," she said.

Adrian Lewis' face might be familiar to commuters. A month before his death, his smiling picture was used in an ad on an electronic billboard at Woodruff and Garlington roads.

The headline next to his helmeted head read, "We salute our fallen heroes."

The Lewises lived in Fort Stewart, Ga. He marched around his wife's hospital bed and whistled while waiting for his youngest daughter, Sade, to be born, said his mother-in-law, Elaine Mims.

That was Dec. 3. He left 12 days later, Amanda Lewis said.

She said she talked to her husband right up to the day he died.

Until his Internet connection failed last month, the soldier was able to see his family via computer screen every day.

Adrian Lewis was planning to go on leave in July to attend a family reunion and go on a cruise to the Bahamas with his wife.

But he didn't make it.

Amanda Lewis knew that something had happened to her husband when she received a call from a woman she didn't recognize.

At first, Amanda Lewis thought her husband had been wounded. It turned out to be much worse.

"I knew he loved me," she said, "and I loved him. In my heart, I felt like we were going to be together forever. But God has his ways."

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