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A soldier from North Bend died last week when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle southeast of Baghdad.
Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Elizalde, 30, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), out of Fort Lewis, Wash. A soldier from Pennsylvania also died in the explosion.
The Defense Department initially announced that Elizalde was from North Bend, Ind., which created confusion among friends and family members.
Jorge Elizalde said the mistake created a whirlwind of calls from people wondering whether his son had died.
"We've been dealing with a lot here," he said. "My son was special to us and we know he touched a lot of people. Everybody's coming forward."
One of those people is Sally Prouty, a retired North Bend principal who taught Elizalde in second grade.
"He was extremely bright and he liked to break dance and do the moonwalk all the time," Prouty told The Oregonian newspaper. "What a waste because he really was a wonderful boy. As an adult, he would've added a lot to this or any other community where he landed. He was there for everybody whenever they were in need."
Elizalde joined the Army in 1996, one year after graduating from North Bend High School. He is survived by his parents, Jorge and Teresa Elizalde, and sister Rachel, all of Renton, Wash.; and his daughter Sydney Grace, 6, of Klamath Falls.
"In short, he's the most wonderful man you'd want to have on your side," Rachel Elizalde told The World newspaper of Coos Bay. "He stands up for what he believes in. He was a phenomenal father. He was the best."
Sgt. 1st Class Tim Freeland, who visited the Elizaldes after learning of their loss, said he befriended Elizalde during their first duty assignment at Fort Bragg, N.C. The two men served in the same unit, boxed on the same team, worked together and eventually became roommates.
"It comes in waves," Freeland said of his sadness. "Sometimes you are OK and sometimes you are not. It sucks, y'know? We lost a good person."
Teresa Elizalde said her son was serious about his military career, but had talked about becoming a teacher after his stint in the Army, and possibly a wrestling coach.
Elizalde started wrestling at age 8, his father said, and became a standout. In high school, he won a district championship in the 126-pound weight class, qualifying for the state tournament.
"He was a very disciplined person," Jorge Elizalde said. "Whatever he set his sights on, he went after it. He wanted to be the best at whatever he attempted."
North Bend Mayor Rick Wetherell, who used to coach Elizalde in football and baseball, said the death leaves a big hole in the city.
"Everybody has a position on this war and at times like this it doesn't really matter where you stand," Wetherell said. "You don't realize the cost until it comes home like it has now."
North Bend soldier killed in war
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