|From Cushing Oklahoma, Cushing
Daily Citizen 05/09/07:
Soldier with Oklahoma ties killed in Iraq
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Army Spc. Joel Lewis, a gung-ho adventurer who put marriage to his sweetheart on hold to serve his country, was among six soldiers killed over the weekend in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq, his family said.
Lewis, 28, had ties to Sand Springs, a suburb of Tulsa, where his mother and stepfather live. He was a member of the Stryker Brigade combat team at Fort Lewis, Washington, and had been in Iraq since February.
A freelance news photographer from Russia also was killed, and two more soldiers were wounded in Sunday's improvised explosive device attack, according to the Department of Defense.
It was the worst hit to date on the Stryker, a faster eight-wheeled armored troop carrier that is the mainstay of the Fort Lewis infantry brigades.
Tuesday, family members remembered Lewis as a competitive "adrenaline junkie" who loved to skydive, tinker with computers and play chess and ice hockey.
Lewis stood tall at 6-foot-5 and weighed 250 pounds, but had a disarming, hearty laugh that seemed to draw people toward him, recalled his mother, Gale Poindexter.
"I don't know what led him (into the Army), the adventure or the travel," Poindexter said. "He was always into that band of brothers type of thing.
"He kind of had no fear."
Chisel away the tough-guy exterior and you'd find the romantic who proposed to his fiancee in Washington only a few months after meeting her, family members said.
"He was like home," said Julie Smith, a bookkeeper who met Joel in September through an online dating service. "We got to know each other so easily."
Their first date was dinner at Olive Garden, then talking on the beach until after sundown. By December, Joel confessed to her on a car trip that he'd been looking at engagement rings. Then, in January, he just blurted out, 'will you marry me?' one day when they were at home, she recalled.
"He couldn't wait a second longer, he just had to know," said Smith, sobbing.
Plans to marry were put on hold until after he was scheduled to return in October.
Justin, Lewis' younger brother, said Joel was always the one trying the new adventures; the free spirit who didn't want to be tied down to a desk job when he got out of the service; the one who taught him to play chess.
"He had so much life ahead of him," Justin Lewis said. "I was operating under 'this is not going to happen to me or my family.'"
|From Toronto, Canada The
Toronto Star 05/10/07:
Canadian in U.S. Army dies in Iraq
Barrie native, 28, and `immensely strong' son killed in roadside blast northeast of Baghdad
May 10, 2007 04:30 AM
When Gale Poindexter's Canadian-born son joined the U.S. Army six years ago, it was peacetime – four months before 9/11.
She remembers feeling great pride at the time and a mother's relief that her 6-foot-6 son, Joel Lewis, had found a calling that was a good fit for his strong and active disposition.
But when the United States subsequently went to war with Iraq, Poindexter tried to suppress the thought that this could be bad news for her son.
Her worst fears were realized when she learned that Joel was killed on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Barrie native was among six soldiers who died in a roadside bomb blast in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.
"Everyone is still reeling from it here. We're very raw," Poindexter said in a telephone interview from her home in Tulsa, Okla.
The family moved to the U.S. from Barrie in 1993, when Joel was 15. Poindexter had split from her husband and was looking for work. At the time, there were few nursing jobs open in Ontario but a Florida nursing home was hiring.
Joel often returned to Ontario to visit relatives and always considered Barrie to be home base, said his father, Larry Lewis.
As a youngster, he attended Shanty Bay and Maple Grove public schools. He delivered the Barrie Examiner on his bike.
The young man even moved back to Barrie formore than three years before joining the U.S. military.
Lewis, who has since moved from Barrie to the Parry Sound area, described his son as extremely athletic, liking skydiving, skiing, scuba diving and hockey.
He said Joel had misgivings about going to Iraq.
"My son did not agree with going into Iraq in the first place. But as a soldier in the military, he did what he was told. He was big on honour," Lewis explained.
"He also felt you couldn't pull out and leave it in a mess, either. He felt sorry for the people in Iraq and saw the need to restore law and order," Lewis continued.
Joel was not an American citizen and was given a hard time by his colleagues because of Canada's decision not to send troops to Iraq, Lewis said.
"He got major flak. He was ostracized by others in the military," Lewis said, adding it was one reason that it wasn't until February that Joel was deployed.
Lewis said his son told of seeing some horrible things in the war.
"He saw guys in his unit burned alive,"
Another incident that particularly bothered him was seeing a fellow soldier shoot a dog for no apparent reason.
"It hurt his heart is what he said," recounted his father. "On the one hand he was immensely strong, but he had a big heart."
The last time Poindexter spoke to her son was the end of last month.
"He said he was going out on a mission for six or seven days and not to worry," she recounted.
He had also expressed disappointment that his time in Iraq had been extended.
He was supposed to return home for good in April, but he was just moved into a new unit, which wasn't due to return until October.
Besides, he had big plans for his return, she said – he was engaged to be married and planning a career as a police officer.
Now his mother is planning his funeral. She doesn't have a date yet because she's waiting for his body to be returned to the U.S.
Joel Lewis will be buried with full honours at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash. Tahoma is where he lived before joining the army and it's where his younger brother, Justin, lives.
"We want him to be close to his brother," Poindexter said.
Lewis said has had difficulty sleeping since he learned of his son's death.
"I would have traded places rather than it happen to him," he said.