Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Julian M. Woodall dies 'while conducting combat operations'

Julian Woodall was a shy teen when he first stepped foot on the SAIL High School campus. But, he had broken out of that shell by the time he graduated and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Principal Roseanne Wood had just sent out an e-mail Monday to teachers regarding Woodall's address in Iraq so they could write him. They were all shocked when Woodall's family called Tuesday morning to say he had been killed. He was 21.

Information couldn't be confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense regarding the details of Woodall's death since it's the agency's policy to allow the family at least 24 hours to grieve before a public statement is made. Julian's mother, Meredith McMackin, and his father, Jerry Woodall, could not be reached Tuesday.

Before Woodall's death, nine people with ties to the Big Bend had been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan - seven soldiers and Marines, one contractor and a Navy SEAL.

"When we heard, it was like, 'Oh no.' It's like your worst nightmare come true," Wood said. "We're all heartbroken about it. He was a really great kid."

Woodall was on his second deployment to Iraq when he died, and he frequently came back to the school to visit when he came home. He was stationed in North Carolina, according to Wood, and had bought a house there with his wife, Melissa Robinson, who also graduated from SAIL.

He came to SAIL in the 10th grade and graduated in 2004. He worked in the school's front office and had gotten to know the teachers and administrators quite well.

"We're proud of him from going from being this shy young man to a being a person who was in control," said Sandra Adams, the school's secretary.

She said one of the saddest things was knowing he'll never get to do the things that so many other young people will get to do.

Woodall will be honored during Thursday's graduation ceremony for the Class of 2007.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons said this was a sad time for the district.

"Anytime anyone loses any young person like this, it's definitely something that affects us all deeply," Pons said.

Shirley Cain, the school's registrar, could barely talk about how hurt she was to find out about Woodall.

She said the school has a tradition where graduating seniors get to pick who introduces them during the ceremony. Woodall chose Cain when he graduated, and she felt honored - now, more than ever.

When she asked him how he wanted to be remembered, he said, "I just want people to know I'm a nice guy."

From the Tallahassee Democrat