Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Army Sgt. 1st Class David J. Todd Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class David J. Todd Jr., 36, of Marrero, La.

SFC Todd was assigned to the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-West, Herat, Afghanistan; died Aug. 20, 2008 in Bala Morghab, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small-arms fire.

Scott Huddleston - Express-News Mary Todd can't shake the memory of her son's last e-mail from Afghanistan.

“Mom, this is going to be a long one,” Army Sgt. 1st Class David J. Todd Jr. wrote early this month.

Expecting his mission to last 10 to 12 days, he told her to keep checking on his wife, knowing she'd worry about not hearing from him. His mother sensed that he might not return to see his wife and five children.

“It's almost like he was saying goodbye,” she said, her voice breaking.

Her son, 36, died Wednesday after being hit by small-arms fire when his unit was attacked in Bala Morghab, according to the Defense Department.

His death comes amid increasing dangers in Afghanistan. While San Antonio hasn't had a combat-related death in Iraq in 2008, Todd's is this year's second known battle death of a San Antonian there. Marine Sgt. Matthew Mendoza was killed by an explosive June 20 in Helmand province.

As her son served in the first phase of the war in Iraq, Mary Todd attended meetings of a support group for mothers of deployed troops.

“We feel like that old beetle that finds himself upside down, waving its legs and feeling helpless,” she told the San Antonio Express-News in August 2003, explaining the mothers' anxiety.

Since then, while Iraq has absorbed the public's attention, her son, who also served in Kuwait during Desert Storm, avoided being called back to Iraq. But Afghanistan was a “different animal,” his mother said. Both wars made him nervous.

“He looked a little more worried” while preparing for Afghanistan, she said.

Though he recently lived in the New Orleans suburb of Marrero and worked as an ROTC instructor at Tulane University, Todd was proud of his San Antonio roots. He often wore a cowboy hat and boots.

He'd also worn Army colors since he was a boy, when his mother bought him fatigues at an Army surplus store. His father, David Todd Sr., served with the Air Force in Vietnam. His mother said that over time, Todd believed in sacrificing to make life better for others.

“It's better to let 10 soldiers die than 1,000 innocent people,” he'd tell his teenage son, according to his mother.

He was the 101st U.S. service member killed this year in Afghanistan, where deaths are on pace to exceed last year's record toll of 111, according to the Associated Press. June was the second-deadliest month in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001, with 23 deaths, surpassing 22 in Iraq that same month.

Chris Peche, who founded a local chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America in 2003, said her members no longer view Afghanistan as “the good war.”

“They realize what the news has reported, that Afghanistan is now more prone to violence,” Peche said.

Todd, a San Antonio native, grew up on the Northeast Side and attended MacArthur High School. As an adult, he put his children at the center of his life, calling them “little gifts” from God, his mother said. He'd take them fishing or boating, or to Mardi Gras.

After Hurricane Katrina damaged the New Orleans area's schools, he sent two of his children, Kandace Todd, now 18, and David S. Todd, now 16, to live with his parents in St. Hedwig so they could attend East Central High School. His other three children, 15, 12 and 2, live with his wife, Tianne, in Louisiana.

Mary Todd used to sit in the heat and imagine her son enduring Iraq's triple-digit temperatures so she could feel close to him. After he went to Afghanistan in December, she sent him a soft sleeping bag and hand warmers to get him through the winter. He was a reconnaissance scout at the Afghan Regional Security Integration Command-West in Herat.

Keeping in touch by phone, e-mail or instant message, Todd and his mother exchanged spiritual advice. She told him to read Psalm 23, often read at funerals. He preferred Psalm 27, which says to “be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart.”

She feels that psalm best describes her son.

Todd also is survived by a sister, Stephanie Marie Keller of Aurora, Colo.

A funeral is planned Saturday in New Orleans, under the direction of Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home. Locally, a memorial service is set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at Cross of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Universal City.

Army Sgt. 1st Class David J. Todd Jr. was killed in action on 8/20/08.

1 comment:

Tammara Coleman said...

Thank you for your sacrifice David. I hope you are doing well Mary. Your friend, Tammy Coleman