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Va. soldier Spec. William K. 'Kyle' Middleton killed in Afghanistan

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By Fredrick Kunkle and Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 9:55 PM

It was something of a surprise to Kyle Middleton's family when the handsome young Virginia man who had once been a soccer star decided to join the Army nearly two years ago. But then, he had always loved being part of a team.

"That family of soldiers - he loved that," said his stepmother, Diane Middleton, 51, of Amelia County. "He loved family. He really thrived in that kind of a family environment."

Spec. William K. Middleton, 26, known to friends and family as Kyle, was killed Monday when Afghan insurgents attacked his foot patrol in Kandahar province with a makeshift bomb, according to relatives and the military. Another member of his unit, Sgt. Sean M. Flannery of Pennsylvania, also was killed.

Friends and military officials said Middleton was a decorated infantryman who had attended high school in Chesterfield, Va. He received a bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where he joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and studied film. He had a way of making those around him feel like they mattered.

"He was always genuinely interested in where you were at in life," said Bret Kelly, a fraternity brother. "He was one of those all-around good guys. There aren't many of those."

Middleton was also someone who followed several sports religiously and relished a good prank, according to friends and family. "He was very spontaneous. If he got an idea in his head, he would just do it," said his half brother, Zachary Middleton, 21.

A college roommate, Christian Parsons, 28, said visitors ventured at their risk to their ODU lair, knowing that if they fell asleep after a night of partying, they were liable to awake covered in goo from the kitchen or with a mustache or a unibrow drawn on their faces with marker. Middleton and his roommates could become so carried away with practical jokes that they were driven to sue one another for peace and draw up armistices agreements on notebook paper and tack them to their doors.

"If you didn't have that, you might be woken up with an electric guitar amp at full-up at 4 o'clock in the morning," said Parsons, who also was a member of Middleton's fraternity.

Until he joined the Army, the teams that Middleton loved most were those that played soccer. His family said Middleton played the sport from an early age and longed to play professionally until a knee injury slowed his play. One of the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy is the FC Richmond Soccer Club, for whose travel team "Magic" Middleton had played, his stepmother said.

When his father, Clarence "Hank" Middleton, suggested that he enlist in the National Guard to help pay for college, Kyle Middleton was opposed. After college, Middleton tended bar in Norfolk.

But Middleton's hunger for physical challenges, camaraderie and adventure led him to enlist in the Army in April 2009. Unable to find work in the movie industry, he was looking for something more disciplined and meaningful than tending bar.

"He never really pondered the 'what-if's.' I always knew that as a soldier, there was always a possibility he wouldn't come back, and he knew that," said Parsons, a Defense Department employee in Suffolk, Va.

When Middleton first arrived in Afghanistan, he sounded let down, telling friends and family he had been shipped to a place with nothing but sand and more waiting-around.

"He wanted to be one of the guys out there in the field. He wanted to be at the front," Parsons said.

Middleton had never sounded happier than when the family spoke to him the Saturday before his death. He was happy to be on patrols and in the middle of the action, his stepmother said.

"You could hear it in his voice: He was finally doing what he wanted to be doing over there," Diane Middleton said.

Kyle Middleton is to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, although final arrangements have not been made.

Staff researcher Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.

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