Sunday, September 23, 2007

Joseph N. Landry III dies 'of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations'

Joseph Landry III died the soldier he so much wanted to be.

The Pine Forest High School graduate — and four-year Junior ROTC student — was killed Tuesday in Muqdadiyah, Iraq.

His parents, Joseph and Karen Landry of Pensacola, said their son had no fear of war. His only fear was that he wouldn't become a soldier in the first place.

Army Spc. Landry, 23, died when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit.

Another Florida soldier, Spc. Donald E. Valentine, 21, of Orange Park, and a California soldier, Spc. Nicholas Olson, 22, also were killed in the blast. No other details of their deaths have been released.

Landry graduated from Pine Forest High in 2002, then took two years off before joining the Army. But his parents said there was never a doubt that he would serve.

"He wanted to serve his country," his father said. "He was always interested in serving, even as a child."

When the Army told him that he had to lose 40 pounds to enlist, Landry strapped a 50-pound pack on his back and started walking.

He'd walk 2 miles to his job at Taco Bell on Mobile Highway carrying the weight. After work, he'd lug the extra weight home. He did that for weeks.

Landry lost the 40 pounds and became a soldier in October 2004.

"He was in Junior ROTC all through high school," said his father, also an Army veteran. "And when he put on that uniform, it just transformed him. He became a different person — a person who showed pride and confidence in what he did. And that's how he felt about the Army."

Landry also is survived by a younger brother, Chris Landry, 16, a Pine Forest sophomore, and numerous relatives. Funeral arrangements have not been announced, but his parents said he would be buried in Molino. Landry's body is expected to return home next week.

After Landry joined the Army, he worried that he might not make it to Iraq.

"He got tired of the training," his father said. "He would call and say, 'I know we're ready to go.' That's where he wanted to be."

Landry and the other two soldiers who were killed were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, Wash. Their Stryker Brigade unit deployed to Iraq in April.

Landry's father said his son knew about the dangers of war and was ready to sacrifice himself for others if the situation arose.

"He said he was willing to take a bullet for a husband or a father just so they could come back and be with their families," he said. "He'd take the bullet instead of them — that's just the kind of person he was."

But he was also a loving son and brother who would call his family from Iraq to talk about video games with his brother or just clue his parents in to what he was doing.

"But we would never say 'bye,' " his father said. "Bye is bad luck. We'd always say, 'I'll talk to you later.' "

Karen Landry said she talked to her son about five days before he died.

"We said we loved each other," she said, wiping away tears.

From the Pensacola News Journal