Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Army Pvt. Dewayne L. White

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pvt. Dewayne L. White, 27, of Country Club Hills, Ill.

Pvt. White was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Dec. 4, 2007 in Bayji, Iraq, from wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez and Army Capt. Adam P. Snyder.

Southtown Star -- The last time Dewayne L. White called home from Iraq, his mother was staring at a crimson sunset unlike any she had ever seen.

"Baby, you should see this sky," Sandra Miller told her eldest soldier son. "It's so beautiful. I wish you were here to share this with me."

They talked a few minutes more about nothing in particular. Then White signed off as with a trademark "see ya" and his breathy, staccato laugh.

"I can hear his laughter," Miller said, her eyes puffy and bloodshot. "I hope I don't lose that sound."

White, 27, of Country Club Hills, was killed Tuesday when the vehicle in which he was riding was struck by an improvised explosive devise in Bayji, Iraq.

Another 101st Airborne soldier, Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, of New Jersey, was also killed. A third infantryman, Capt. Adam Snyder, of Florida, died Wednesday from injuries suffered in the blast.

It was White's second tour in Iraq. The Army private and his Fort Campbell-based 1st Brigade Combat Team were deployed in September.

"We are so proud of him," his mother said, pulling his Army portrait from the pages of her Bible.

White's younger brother DeShaun was hours away from boarding a flight for his second tour in Iraq when he learned of DeWayne's death.

The military granted DeShaun, an Army specialist, an emergency leave and put him on a plane home.

"I have a bond with the guys going over there," DeShaun said. "I feel bad I won't be there with them, but I feel worse about what happened to my brother."

Chester Miller, stepfather to DeWayne, DeShaun and their sister Nekita, said DeShaun will not return to a combat assignment.

"We'll not send another son over there to die," said Miller, a police officer in south suburban Phoenix.

DeWayne and DeShaun's father, Lenell White Jr., is retired from the Air Force. The boys grew up admiring his uniform and playing with toy guns, DeShaun said.

The brothers joined the Army together in November 2004 and attended boot camp at the same time.

During their first tour in Iraq, a yearlong stretch that began in September 2005, they were stationed 35 miles apart and never saw each other.

"DeWayne wouldn't talk about the casualties or the danger because he didn't want us to worry," said his mother, who works as a private mortgage insurance processor in Downers Grove.

White grew up in Chicago's Woodlawn community and attended Curie High School. When his mother and stepfather moved to Country Club Hills during his senior year, White earned his GED and trained to be a welder through a Job Corps program.

For the next few years, he worked a series of jobs in Tennessee, Kansas and the Southland.

It was during one of his stints in Clarksville, Tenn., that White met Synaca. They were married in February. The Millers missed the celebration because of a snowstorm in Chicago.

The snow also was falling Tuesday when they got the news of his death.

Sandra Miller was a passenger in her cousin's car when Synaca called.

"She said, 'Mom, there's been an accident in Iraq,'" Miller recalled. "Then she said DeWayne didn't make it."

Miller said she felt a heaviness on her chest, causing her cousin to think she was having a heart attack. Miller fell out of the car and began to wail.

"The spirit was telling me to come to my senses and be strong for my family," she said. "But I broke down. I have faith in God and that he's going to bring us through this."

Meanwhile, White's sister was home alone when the military turned up at their door.

"There was only one reason they were here," said Nekita as she cradled her 6-week-old daughter Jaida. "Our neighbor had to get me off the military man because I wanted to kill him. They wouldn't tell me nothing. It was horrible."

White loved to dance, draw cartoons of hip-hop characters and play pool. He adored the family's dog, a Rottweiler named Zeus. And he did a dead-on impression of Donald Duck, his siblings said.

His family remembered how willing White - a broad-shouldered man who stood 6 feet 2 inches - had always been to help others.

When he was about 7 years old, a neighbor gave him a dollar for being a good boy. White gave the money to charity, without urging from adults, because he wanted to help the children of Ethiopia, his mother said.

He maintained that spirit of giving while in Iraq. He always carried candy to pass out to the children, his mother said.

"He loved to give, not receive," she explained. "He was always happy and wanted to make every person happy. Even the little babies would just smile and smile at him."

In the past year, White's family has suffered the losses of Sandra's _mother, grandmother and aunt.

White inherited the nickname "Crazy Weezie" from his grandmother, Elouise Ireland, with whom he was very close.

He had the moniker tattooed on his left forearm. On his right shoulder, White inked a tribute to a soldier he knew who died in combat.

Country Club Hills lowered the American flag flying outside the city hall to half-staff on Thursday.

"Our heart goes out to the family at this time," Mayor Dwight Welch said. "Our community shares their grief since this young man gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. God bless all our military men and women."

White also is survived by a stepsister, Kimberly Highsmith, of Arkansas, and a stepbrother, Chester Miller Jr., of Chicago.

Army Pvt. Dewayne L. White was killed in action on 12/04/07.

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