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Norfolk Soldier Remembered for his Vigor, Generosity

Army Medic Was Killed On Patrol in Sadr City

By Lila de Tantillo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 1, 2005; Page B04

No matter what he was doing, Lee Arthur Lewis Jr.'s goal was always to help people.

The 28-year-old soldier from Norfolk doted on his young stepdaughter and hoped to adopt her one day. A former high school sports standout, he planned to study physical therapy so he could care for other athletes.

Maj. Gen. Joseph G. Webb Jr. presented the flag from Pfc. Lewis's coffin to his widow, Telia, after the service at Arlington Cemetery. Friends recalled Lewis's caring and his laughter. (Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

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On March 18, Lewis, a medic and private first class in the U.S. Army, was killed when his patrol came under attack in Sadr City, Iraq. Yesterday, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, the 125th service member killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried there.

He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal.

"Everything he did, he did with vigor and a lot of laughter," said Ross A. Kearney, mayor of Hampton, Va., where Lewis grew up. Kearney had been youth director at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, where the young Lewis sang in the choir, was confirmed and remained actively involved through high school. Lewis especially enjoyed preparing dinner at the church for disabled veterans in the community, Kearney recalled.

"When we'd decorate, he'd be there for the decorations and he'd be there for the cleanup," Kearney said. "You could always call on him to help."

Lewis's generosity and penchant for cooking carried on through college. Brandon Boone and Tiffany Wrushen, friends from Old Dominion University, recalled a time when Lewis cooked up a steak and the delicious smell drew a crowd to his dorm room. "He split his steak up among everybody and made sure everybody had some," Wrushen said. "He ended up with a really, really small piece. . . ." And yet, she recalled, he always had a smile on his face.

Yesterday, the pounding footsteps of the honor guard could be heard as they brought Lewis's coffin into Fort Myer Chapel. A clergyman read the 23rd Psalm as dozens of mourners bowed their heads in prayer.

To the side of the altar stood a montage of photographs of Lewis, illustrating his transformation from boy to man. There he was as a baby in diapers, as a young boy showing off a trophy and with a broken arm. There was Lewis on horseback, in a football uniform and in a graduation robe.

In the center of the display was the largest photo: Lewis in uniform standing before an American flag.

After the service, an organist played "America the Beautiful" as the honor guard withdrew the flag-draped coffin. A tan hearse took it to its final resting place.

Maj. Gen. Joseph G. Webb Jr. knelt before Lewis's widow, Telia Lewis, and presented her with the flag that had covered her husband's coffin. His mother, Elvena Lewis, wiped away tears as she was presented with another flag.

After the funeral, Lewis's aunt, Emmaline Lewis Marks, said her nephew's energy and delight in life always brought joy to those around him -- especially his younger sister, Eola. She recalled visiting his parents' home a few years ago and finding Lewis engrossed in teaching his younger sister how to "do the hustle."

Marks, who lives in Willingboro, N.J., smiled at the memory of the big brother patiently showing off the funky dance move. Before long, even Lewis's father, retired Lt. Col. Lee Lewis Sr., was on his feet, trying to do the step.

Lewis also gave his all on the field; he ran track and was a versatile football player. His high school coach, Curtis Newsome, now an offensive line coach at James Madison University, said Lewis's work ethic during strenuous drills inspired his teammates to keep going.

"What a hard worker he was; what a good person he was," Newsome said. "He was just a real leader."

In addition to his wife, parents and sister, Lewis is survived by stepdaughter Justina Evans; five other sisters; and two brothers.

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