ELMA - Army Sgt. Mickel Garrigus loved to stay active, his mother recalls.
Growing up in this small town in Grays Harbor County, he kept busy playing basketball and soccer and going to movies with his family, among other activities.
On Saturday, the 24-year-old military policeman was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Taji, Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday. He was two months into his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Sitting in her living room, Deadra Garrigus talked about her son while surrounded by pictures of him that will be displayed at his memorial service Saturday in McCleary.
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She pointed out her favorite: her son and his wife, Natasha, kissing the forehead of their baby boy, Ethan, who recently turned 1.
"His pride and joy was his baby and his wife," she said.
Another passion was his military career.
His stepfather, Dave, encouraged Mickel and his brother, Matthew, to join the service. Matthew, now 23, served four years in the Air Force.
"(Mickel) loved the military. He lived for the military," his mother said. "He was going to make it a career."
He served as a guard at Guantanamo Bay before he transferred to Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company.
Match made at Taco Bell
In 2003, he spotted Natasha working at a Taco Bell near the Army post. He returned later and spent several hours there, getting up the courage to introduce himself.
She found herself attracted to his personality and blue eyes.
"He just had this confidence about him," she said. "He was like the sweetest and cutest guy."
They married Jan. 3, 2004, two weeks before he left for Iraq the first time.
Mickel returned a year later, re-enlisted and requested a transfer to a military police company based at Fort Drum, N.Y.
He continued to love sports. His mother sent care packages with newspaper clippings so he could follow his favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, while overseas. His wife recalled waiting in line for hours at the Tacoma Mall so her husband could get an autograph from the team's starting quarterback.
Their son was born Jan. 22, 2006, and Mickel took on a new mission in life.
"He wanted to be the best dad he could be, and he was," she said.
Natasha and her son moved in with her family in Nevada before he deployed to Iraq for a second time.
On Saturday, hours after she returned home from visiting his parents, casualty officers notified her of Mickel's death.
She turns 22 today. "I never see myself celebrating a birthday ever again," she said.
On Friday, the day before Natasha flew back to Nevada with her son, Mickel called his parents. After a brief conversation with his mother, he asked that she pass the phone to Ethan.
His son inadvertently hung up as Mickel spoke to him.
Mickel was unable to call back.
Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other servicemembers with South Sound ties killed in Iraq
Here's a list of other U.S. servicemembers with ties to South Sound killed in Iraq:
Army Sgt. Justin Norton, 21, a native of Rainier, was killed June 24 when an improvised explosive device exploded near Baghdad. He was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.
Marine Cpl. Joseph Bier, 22, of Centralia, died Dec. 7, 2005, from an improvised explosive device in Ar Ramadi. He was assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force based at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Navy Reserve Petty Officer 1st Class Regina Clark, 43, of Centralia, was killed June 23, 2005, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device exploded near her vehicle in Fallujah. She was temporarily assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Air Force Master Sgt. Steven E. Auchman, 37, who was living in Lacey while stationed at Fort Lewis, was killed during a mortar attack in Mosul on Nov. 9, 2004. He was assigned to the 5th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Lewis.
Marine Corps Capt. Gregory Ratzlaff, 36, whose parents live in Olympia, died Aug. 3, 2004, from a noncombat-related incident in Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cornell Gilmore, 45, formerly of Lacey, died Nov. 7, 2003, when his helicopter crashed in Iraq. At the time of his death, he was assigned to the Judge Advocate General Office at the Pentagon.
Today, Fort Lewis will hold a memorial service for Staff Sgt. Hector Leija, the 89th soldier from Fort Lewis killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003. Leija, 27, of Houston, died last Wednesday of wounds suffered during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Memorial on Saturday
A memorial for Sgt. Mickel Garrigus will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Assembly of God Church of McCleary, 208 W. Pine St.
The American Red Cross will fly his parents to his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Family friends have established a bank account for donations so his siblings can attend.
Donations can be made at any Timberland Bank branch under the Garrigus Fund.
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