Tromaine K. Toy Sr. was a husband, father and soldier, an outgoing man who left a tiny town on Virginia's Eastern Shore to serve in the Army all over the world: in Kosovo, in Korea and, finally, in Iraq.
The 24-year-old sergeant loved basketball and shopping and kidding around, and, for the most part, he seemed to enjoy his Army service. But in recent calls back to Eastville, he said he had let his commanding officer know he was ready to come home.
Staff Sgt. Tromaine Toy of Eastville, Va., was killed with two others in an attack on a Marine camp in Iraq.
For all his ever-present humor, Toy "wasn't joking about this one," his father, Michael Toy, said last night from the family home. "He had a bad feeling."
The Defense Department announced yesterday that Toy and two others in his 2nd Infantry Division artillery unit were killed Saturday in the Ramadi area by an improvised bomb believed to have been detonated by insurgents.
The Pentagon gave no other details about the deaths. But relatives of one of the other soldiers, Spec. Randy L. Stevens of Swartz Creek, Mich., said Stevens was killed while pursuing insurgents thought to be behind a recent attack near Baghdad, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, is a hot spot of insurgent activity. Dozens of U.S. soldiers have been killed there since the invasion of Iraq more than two years ago.
Toy and his wife, Dominique, have a 16-month-old son, Michael Toy said. He said the sergeant also has a 6-year-old daughter.
Yesterday, Toy's basketball coach at Northampton High School remembered his love of the sport and his ebullience, how he made things fun.
"Tromaine was always joking around," said James Conrow, who also teaches marketing. "He's the last person you'd think would be on the front line with a gun in his hand."
He was "an outgoing person," his mother, Patricia, said. "He loved to shop."
From wherever he was, his parents said, he would always send home presents. Often, they were items he purchased online. "He knew how to shop no matter where he was," his mother said.
The stream of presents appeared to be one of the ways that Toy demonstrated his loyalty to his roots. Another was the caption he chose under his high school yearbook photograph, a quote from rapper Ghostface Killah:
"Never forget where you came from or you'll never get where you're going."
His parents said he was constantly on the phone to them and to his wife. The conversations mostly involved everyday matters: how someone had liked the present he sent, whether his brother, Tyrell, could wear one of the jackets.
At the end of their conversation Friday, Patricia Toy said, "I told him that I loved him" and to "take care of himself."
He said he would. The next day, she said, he was to call his wife.
Toy was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the Defense Department said. Lt. Colonel David Johnson, an Army spokesman at Fort Carson, Colo., said the unit arrived in Iraq last summer from South Korea and was to redeploy later this year to Fort Carson.
Toy's hometown of 200 residents is in a farming area about a dozen miles north of Cape Charles, where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Northampton is one of the state's poorest counties. About a third of the high school's graduates enlist, Conrow said, as a way out.
"When your alternatives are working in a processing plant or the seafood industry, the military seemed like a viable option" for Toy, he said, "especially for a person . . . who hadn't seen a lot of the world."
Michael Toy said his son had been undecided about college and wanted to give the military a try for "a couple of years." He liked it well enough to reenlist at least once.