Monday, July 30, 2007

Daniel Leckel remembered

In the fall of 2005, Daniel Leckel told his parents he was dropping out of college to join the Army.

They knew his motives were right — he wanted to serve his country and make money to help pay for his education.

But, "We tried to discourage him," said his stepfather, Richard LeCrone, a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Grants Pass. "I've been there, and done that, and I didn't want him to go."

Last Wednesday morning, when LeCrone and Leckel's mother, Cathy LeCrone, heard knocks on the door, their stomachs sank.

An Army chaplain was on the stoop. "We opened the door and saw him, and we knew," said Cathy LeCrone. "We just knew."

The chaplain told them Leckel, 19, had been killed in small-arms fire in southern Baghdad.

Born in Portland, Leckel moved to Glendale in middle school and graduated from Glendale High in 2005. He spent a semester at Rogue Community College and hoped to become a sports writer, but in late 2005 he put those dreams on hold.

In January 2007, Leckel was sent to Iraq. He wrote his parents detailed accounts of his life there, describing the dangers of Baghdad but also the fun.

"One Iraqi family invited him to dinner, and he wrote us everything he ate," his stepfather said. "They had rice and lamb stew and pita bread. He seemed to like it."

Leckel's MySpace profile has a photo of children waving. Recently he asked his parents to send him candy to hand out to Iraqi kids. The LeCrones shipped 6 pounds of sweets to Baghdad.

Richard LeCrone said Leckel told his family that he loved the brotherhood of his unit. "He always liked being part of a team," LeCrone said. "And those squads are teams."

The LeCrones are trying to heal, but they're plagued by near-constant regret. Richard LeCrone remembers one of Leckel's dreams that now will never be realized. "He loved the Atlanta Braves and he always wanted to get back there to see one of their games," LeCrone said, his voice trailing off.

"He was a great kid," he said. "He deserved better than this."

From the Oregonian

Related Link:
Daniel Leckel reported killed in Iraq