Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dane R. Balcon dies 'of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device'

Dane Balcon was 3 years old the day he told his mother he wanted to be a soldier.

By 19, he had fulfilled his dream to be in the Army and serve in Iraq, where he was deployed in July. Just months before, he had the word soldier tattooed down the side of his arm.

On Wednesday, Pfc. Balcon was killed in Balad, Iraq, by a roadside bomb.

"Now he's one of God's soldiers," said Balcon's mother, Carla Sizer, of Colorado Springs.

Sizer found out about her son's death the way most military families do - from Army soldiers at her doorstep.

"I pulled up to my driveway, and I saw that car, and I saw soldiers in their military service dress, and I knew," Sizer said Friday. "I knew they were going to see me.

"I was so devastated, and I still am. I don't think I'll ever be the same."

The news of Balcon's death also has rocked his former classmates at Sand Creek High School in the Springs, where he graduated in 2006.

Just before noon Friday, about 15 of his friends gathered at the front of the school and set red roses at the base of the flagpole.

"You will be sorely missed," they wrote on a paper taped next to pictures of Balcon in his Army uniform in Iraq.

"He knew everything about the military," said Jamar Harrison, a senior who met Balcon in the school's drum line. Harrison said he thought his friend's knowledge of the military would keep him out of harm's way.

"I had this thought he was invincible," Harrison said.

The boy who would grow up to be a soldier was born April 27, 1988, at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz.

Although Balcon spent most of his life with Sizer, who is a captain in the Air Force, he spent many weekends as a child at Fort Bragg, N.C., with his father, John Balcon, who was in the Army.

"His heart was with the Army," Sizer said.

As soon as he began attending Sand Creek High School three years ago, Balcon joined the ROTC program. Classmates recalled that he was the type of student who paid attention to every detail of his uniform, and everyone else's, to the point that he could distinguish whether they used starch.

In the halls, in the cafeteria and in classes, Balcon could be seen with his drumsticks, playing along to his own imaginary drum line. It was a habit that could rankle teachers, some of whom confiscated his sticks. He always charmed them into giving them back, said Assistant Principal David Morgan.

Friday afternoon, Morgan recalled what Balcon told him after graduation.

"You all will be reading about me in the paper one day," Morgan said Balcon told him. "And it's going to be for something good."

Balcon was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. When it was his turn to be sent to Iraq in June, he called his mother and told her he was upset because his trip would be delayed another month.

"He was devastated," Sizer said. "He said, 'I'm not going to get to serve my country.' "

Sizer responded by telling him he should feel fortunate because there are thousands of soldiers in Iraq who would like to be home with their families.

"That's exactly why I want to go," Sizer said her son told her. "Because every day I stay at Fort Hood, someone is away from their family."

By July, Balcon's dream to serve his country finally came true. But by Monday, the last time Sizer talked to her son, he was struggling. He told her how hot the weather was, that he hadn't bathed in days and that he missed everyone.

"He told me that he had already seen too much," Sizer said. "That was his struggle."

As Balcon's family now struggles to deal with his death, they also speak of how he wanted to be a soldier from the beginning.

"To me," said Balcon's grandmother, Cynthia Thomas, "it was destiny."

From the Rocky Mountain News