Last year, at Michael Dooley's little brother's birthday party, he entertained everybody by showing off his tongue ring. In eighth grade, he played football. But the team had a losing record. In the last game of the season, his friend threw a block, and he took the ball 80 yards for the team's only touchdown that year.
David Ruhren was so young when he joined the National Guard that he needed parental consent. David's mother didn't know that she was the reason he signed up. He wanted to make her proud. She said later that he didn't need to do that to make her proud. He had amazed her since birth.
Robert Arciola grieves for his son, Army Pfc. Michael Anthony Arciola of Elmsford, N.Y., who was killed in Iraq. Alexandra Kovach, the fiancee of Michael Arciola's brother, and Pfc. Oscar Olguin also attended the burial last week at Arlington National Cemetery.
(Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
Even though Demarkus Brown was short, he took up long-distance running. Had to work extra hard to keep up. Wouldn't say no to a challenge. His coach can still see him hitting that turn on the final lap, running hard to the finish line.
A high school guidance counselor remembered Michael Carey as a slight, blond boy with glasses who wanted to get his GED diploma and join the Marines. He went with his grandfather to the Army recruiting office, but it was closed. Next door, the Marine Corps recruiting office was open.
Their dreams linger, defiant, like something inflated and sent up that hasn't yet come down. Just up there, waiting.
Jonathan Bowling was a deeply religious man who wanted to become a state trooper.
David Branning, from Dulaney High School, loved cooking and drawing. He joined the Marines partly out of curiosity and because he wanted to see the world. Before he left, he read "War and Peace."
"Mom," Jeremy Dimaranan had said when he fell in love, "I'm going to marry Maria." He was saving to buy a house next year.
"He was so proud to be in the Army," Jason Deibler's father said. "The one saving grace is that it happened when he was at the happiest point in his life."
John Howard told his family he was "going over there to do his job. That was to make Iraq a free place."
Darrell Schumann wrote to his family that he had gone three weeks without a shower, was crammed with a bunch of other Marines, "sitting with a machine gun six hours a day." The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter he was in crashed in a sandstorm outside Rutbah in Iraq's western desert. He was 10 days from going home. His brother said later that Darrell always wanted to be part of something bigger than himself.
Raymond Faulstich Jr. liked to go night fishing and got into some trouble when he was younger. Dropped out of school, drifted, got a girlfriend, went back to school, then to college, wanted to drive Army trucks. Joined the Army to redeem himself. Married his girlfriend. He promised to make her a wonderful life. Planned a big wedding for his home leave. She already had her white dress, long veil and satin shoes.
Sometimes what remains is the strong feeling that something was going to happen before it did.
Jason Ford wrote on his Web site from Germany before he left for Iraq: "I will be going to war soon with one of the worst countries in the world. I will be on the front line, watching any and everything a person could only have nightmares about and I will be facing it in first person view. Do I have a choice? No, and I don't know if I will come back." His mother was trying to nap when she heard a knock at the door. It was two soldiers. "You are here about my son, Jason, aren't you?"
"Yes, ma'am," they said.
Sometimes it's what they said when they called home that hangs in the air, just out of reach, like something dangled then snatched away.