In sweltering heat, and in a fractious nation where car bombs go off with unnerving regularity, Sgt. William Alvin Allers III found solace in the faces of the Iraqi children.
"He told us the kids over there really adored seeing soldiers out there," said Dave Allers, who grew up with William, his older brother, in Fallston, Md., outside of Baltimore. "The soldiers handed out stationery, candy and gum. It opened up a whole new world to them. He was ecstatic that he was doing something good."
On Tuesday, weeks before completing his Iraq tour, Allers, 28, of the Kentucky National Guard's 617th Military Police Company, was killed near Al Khalis, 40 miles north of Baghdad, when an roadside bomb struck his Humvee, authorities said. Two soldiers were wounded and transported to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for treatment.
Allers "was funny," his brother said. "His friends looked up to him. The people who worked with him adored him. He's going to be missed by a lot of people."
As a child in Fallston, about 15 miles northeast of Baltimore, Allers showed deep interest in history, particularly in World War II and the Vietnam War, his brother said. He also loved to fish.
"He was a carefree kid. He liked clowning around," said his father, William Allers Jr., 67. "But he liked to work hard."
At Fallston High School, Allers excelled in track, capturing medals in state competitions, the military said. In 1995, during his senior year, he signed up for the Army and, after graduation, went off to serve. His assignments included Fort Knox, Ky., and South Korea.
In 2003, he left the Army and settled in Leitchfield, Ky. He joined the Kentucky National Guard and became a machinist at an office furniture company.
Last year, on Sept. 11, he married for the second time. His new wife has a 7-year-old daughter, and he had an 8-year-old son from his first marriage.
Last November, Allers was sent to Iraq. In June, he returned home on leave to visit loved ones and to attend the funeral of a friend who had been killed in Iraq, his father said. "He was thoroughly devoted to what we were doing in Iraq," his father said.
In Iraq, his unit's responsibilities included providing security for convoys. His team had completed more than 150 combat patrols and 50 security efforts, and it survived more than 25 engagements with the enemy, the military said.
Allers, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, "worked hard to keep high morale in his team and was a catalyst for the morale in our entire company," Capt. Todd Lindner, commander of the 617th MP Company in Iraq, said in a statement yesterday, adding that Allers will be "deeply missed."
His father, in a moment of introspection last night, said he was proud of his son but "would look at his life as a loss if we pull out of Iraq before" U.S. forces complete their mission.