Monday, December 25, 2006

Army Specialist Aaron L. Preston

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Aaron L. Preston, 29, of Dallas, TX

Spc. Preston was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died Dec. 26 of wounds sustained Dec. 25 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad. Also killed were: Sgt. John T. Bubeck and Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson.

Aaron L. Preston: For soldier, service was a family tradition

09:21 AM CST on Saturday, December 30, 2006
By JON NIELSEN / The Dallas Morning News

Aaron L. Preston sustained a family tradition that saw his relatives on battlefields on Iwo Jima and in Europe, Vietnam and Korea.

Three years ago, at age 26, it was his turn to serve. He enlisted in the Army.

"Aaron felt an inherent sense of pride," said his younger brother, Richard Preston. "Deep down he wanted to do his duty to the country, and at the same time he felt a sense of obligation."

Before enlisting, Mr. Preston, a 1995 graduate of W.T. White High School in Dallas, attended Texas State University part time and found activities around San Marcos that connected him to the outdoors. He worked part time on ranches and spent days fishing in the Hill Country's waterways.

Mr. Preston was deployed to Iraq this year, following a path to combat blazed by his uncle and grandfather. The soldier achieved the rank of specialist and hoped to earn enough experience to start a career in the oilfields or mines as a demolitions expert.

"He wanted to help out and get ahead, and the only place he could learn about demolitions was in the military," said his brother-in-law Noel Coward. "He was really waiting to come home and start doing these things."

He was to be released from duty in eight months, his family said. But on Christmas Day, Spc. Preston died from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad. He died just before midnight.

"They must've caught him by surprise because that boy was smart," Mr. Coward said.

Spc. Preston, a combat engineer, was precise when it came to the minutiae of his job. He knew his life depended on it, as did those of his military brothers, most of them five to 10 years younger than he was.

Stationed in Germany for much of his military career, Spc. Preston missed the burnt-orange sunsets that settle over the Texas horizon. He remained in touch with his family via telephone or e-mail. But in Germany, he found a new family.

They called Spc. Preston "Pops" or "Gramps," terms they used frequently as a joke but also as a sign of respect for the 29-year-old serviceman. He often said that he had to help his colleagues because they were so young and didn't always follow protocol. But Spc. Preston, a details guy, did.

"He watched over those young men," said Mr. Coward, "and he enjoyed that, and they enjoyed that. They depended on him."

Two other members of Spc. Preston's company were also killed in Monday's blast: Sgt. John T. Bubeck, 25, of Collegeville, Pa., and Pfc. Andrew H. Nelson, 19, of St. Johns, Mich. They were assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Army Specialist Aaron L. Preston was killed in action on 12/25/06.

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