|From Roseburg News Review newsreview.info
Glendale soldier remembered for loyalty to school
JOHN SOWELL, jsowell[at]newsreview.info
July 29, 2007
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GLENDALE -- The fall after Daniel Leckel graduated from high school, he wanted to go back to Glendale High for the senior night game against the Riddle Irish.
Leckel had moved to Medford, where he was working and attending Rogue Community College and he didn't have a way to get back to Glendale. Instead of calling someone to drive down and pick him up, Leckel decided to walk the 56 miles from Medford to Glendale.
He set out the night before the game, spent three hours under a freeway overpass in Grants Pass to get out of a heavy rainstorm and get some sleep. By 8 o'clock the next morning, he arrived in Glendale, soaked from the continuing rain.
Bret Prock, who was a senior that year, 2006, remembered coming to school that day and being amazed that the game would mean so much to Leckel that he would walk that far. Leckel had served as the team manager for both the Pirate football team and the baseball team during his four years in high school and both teams were important to him.
"That was just Daniel. He was going to be there no matter what," said Prock, who played on the team, which won its game that night. "It showed how much he cared."
The Glendale community was hit hard Wednesday night and Thursday as word spread through town that Leckel, 19, was killed this week in Iraq. Leckel, an infantryman with the U.S. Army, was fatally injured from small arms fire in southern Baghdad.
Other details about his death are sketchy. The Army notified his family but the Department of Defense has not yet issued an official public announcement. Additional information is expected to be released in the next several days.
Plans are being made for a service to be held in Glendale, but those won't be firmed up until it's known when Leckel's body will be returned to the United States.
On Friday, condolences began appearing on Leckel's MySpace page. It can be viewed at www.myspace.com/danthemanleckel. Leckel listed "sports, movies, hangin' out with friends," as some of his interests. He wrote that his heroes were "Jesus Christ, all my friends, my parents."
"This was a total shock," said Holly Wilmot, who graduated with Leckel in 2005 and now resides in Canyonville. "It just blew us away. It's a huge, huge loss."
While fighting back tears, Wilmot laughed at her memories of what people called the "Leckel Dance." Leckel had a special way of dancing that broke everyone up, she said. Wilmot, who helped organize school activities that earned classes Pirate Pride spirit points which brought quarterly prizes for the winning classes, said Leckel was always willing to help out, making spirit buttons and other things.
"He had a great sense of humor and had a good heart," Wilmot said. "He was one in a million."
Even after they were teen-agers, Leckel and next-door neighbor Christopher Johnson would play with Leckel's collection of "Star Wars" action figures.
"He was a huge 'Star Wars' fan," Johnson said during a telephone interview from Tacoma, Wash., where he is working for a nonprofit organization working to raise money for the local DARE program. "We were getting older but we still played with toys. I wish right now I could play with him just one more time."
Johnson's birthday was two days before Leckel's in August and the two friends used to count the days down before their next birthdays. They would go over to each other's home and wish each other "Happy Birthday."
Both Wilmot and Prock saw Leckel over the Christmas holidays, when he was on break. Leckel returned to Fort Riley in Kansas before deploying to Iraq. He was scheduled to be there 18 months, friends said.
The congregation at Wilmot's church prayed for his safe return. Prock and a small group of friends went snowboarding together, an activity they planned to make an annual outing.
Brandon Standridge, a Glendale High social studies teacher, coached Leckel on the basketball team his senior year. Although Leckel didn't play a lot, he was always positive and that helped shape other players' attitudes, as well, he said. Leckel got to start for the Pirates in the team's last home game, which really made him happy.
"It was really sad to hear the news of his death," Standridge said. "He was really a good guy."
When Steve Prock, Bret's dad and coach of the Glendale High football team, spoke to reporters at the end of the 2005 season, he included Leckel, his manager, among the players he said he would miss the most.
"I said it jokingly, but I really meant it. He was my right-hand man," Steve Prock said.
Leckel injured his hand during pre-season practices his freshman year and could not play. However, he still wanted to be involved with the team and Prock asked him to be the manager. While other students might not see the position as that important, Leckel approached it with enthusiasm and made it his own.
"He took it like it was the coolest job in the world," Steve Prock said.
He laid out uniforms in front of the players lockers. He also carried around a small air pump in a fanny pack he kept around his waist and pumped air into the supportive pads in each player's helmet. During games, he would sprint down the sidelines trying to keep up with Pirate pass receivers headed toward the end zone.
During Bret Prock's senior year, Leckel had gone to basic training and his friends went several months without seeing him. Then, one day, he showed up before a baseball game in his full Army dress uniform. He greeted the team and was asked to take batting practice, in his uniform.
Leckel, known to his friends as either "Leck" or "De-Leck-table," wanted to become a sports reporter, Bret Prock said. He wrote for the Glendale High paper and there were times when the paper contained only sports news that Leckel had written. He planned to return to Oregon after his service in the Army and pursue his goal of becoming a journalist, he said.
"Nobody wants someone to go over there. But we were proud of him," Bret Prock said.