Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Willard M. Powell-Kerchief dies 'of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire during combat operations'

When Willard M. Powell-Kerchief joined the Army last year, his friends and family were reluctant to embrace the decision.

But they also said the 2005 Reitz High School graduate seemed to hit his stride while wearing fatigues.

"He felt a sense of accomplishment. It was the most prideful I've ever seen him," said close friend Jeremy Jones, a high school classmate.

The 21-year-old private first class, who was in the process of being promoted to corporal, died Wednesday in Balad, Iraq, north of Baghdad.

He was serving with an infantry company when he was shot in the head. The company, based in Fort Lewis, Wash., was deployed to Iraq in April.

A moment of silence was observed for Powell-Kerchief before Reitz's football opener Friday night against Jeffersonville, Ind.

He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Sunny and Mark Powell, and his father and stepmother, Willard and Linda Kerchief.

The active member of First Christian Church was remembered Friday as the definition of a "true friend," and in fact, Powell-Kerchief was fond of using that very term.

If he thought somebody wasn't being a true friend, "he'd remind you what a true friend is," said Cory Thacker, a Reitz classmate.

Thacker said Powell-Kerchief taught him the meaning of friendship and much more.

When Powell-Kerchief transferred to Reitz, Thacker said they became fast friends. Thacker quickly noticed that, unlike his other friends, Powell-Kerchief never uttered a curse word.

Thacker said he began going to a Bible study with Powell-Kerchief at First Christian.

"The best thing I ever did was pick up the Bible with him and learn about God. It completely changed my life around," said Thacker, who is now a student at Ivy Tech.

Powell-Kerchief was in First Christian's youth group. He also formed a bond with the church's younger children, helping out with their activities.

"He really loved those kids," Sunny Powell said.

Jones, who attends the University of Kentucky, said he went to a UK basketball game and a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game with Powell-Kerchief and "some of the best times of my life were with him."

Powell-Kerchief was a skilled bowler with an average score topping 200.

He played intramural basketball at Reitz and was a big Cardinals fan, friends said.

Powell-Kerchief attended Bosse High School before transferring to Reitz for his senior year. He wanted to join the Marines upon his graduation, but his mother didn't like the idea.

"I talked him out of it." Sunny Powell said.

Powell-Kerchief got a job with RC Cola. He wanted to eventually go to college, but "not at that time," Sunny Powell said.

When her son approached her again about military service, Powell relented.

"I figured he might as well," she said.

When he returned home after completing basic training in Fort Benning, Ga., Powell said that her son "felt good about the decision he made."

"He said he was fine with going to war, that he didn't care if he agreed or disagreed (with the war.) He said as far as he was concerned the president was his boss."

Friends noted Powell-Kerchief didn't have a party last month for his 21st birthday. He spent the occasion serving in the war.

"That tells you something about who he was," Jones said.

From the Courier Press