Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Army Spc. Kelly J. Mixon

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Kelly J. Mixon, 23, of Yulee, Fla.

Spc Mixon was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died Dec. 8, 2010 in Balkh province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an insurgent attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Army Sgt. James A. Ayube II.

In a phone interview with First Coast News, his wife Amy said she's been in shock since the moment she heard the news.

"They came into my office and when I turned the corner and saw them I just broke down into tears and started screaming no way," Mixon said. "I'm grateful for what he did for the country, but I miss him, and I will always love him."

When Kelly J. Mixon came home from Afghanistan for Thanksgiving in Yulee, he got to do two of his favorite things: mess around in the kitchen and play the drums. It was a happy time, family and friends say, tinged with worries about how the rest of his deployment would go.

Those fears became true this week. Mixon and a sergeant from Massachusetts were killed in Balkh province, Afghanistan, after an insurgent attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.

Mixon, a U.S. Army specialist, would have turned 24 in two weeks. He got married right before he was deployed.

Mixon had talked for years, on and off, about enlisting in some branch of the military, friends and family said. When he signed up a few years after high school, it was clear he’d made the right choice. “When I saw him, he was the happiest I’d seen him in many a long time,” said Mary Sikes, who works in Fernandina Beach High School’s guidance department and saw Mixon over Thanksgiving.

Although Mixon could seem rebellious — “not afraid to be himself in front of everybody” is how his friend Ryan Teston described it — it wasn’t much of a surprise when he enlisted or when he went on to become a sniper.

“He was just looking for a big adventure,” said Bob Jenkins, a drumline instructor who taught Mixon how to play. “He always liked to do everything the best he could.”

Drumming was a major part of Mixon’s life before he enlisted. He was interested in music in middle school and joined the band when he went on to Fernandina Beach High School. “Over the next four years, he was the best student I ever had,” Jenkins said.

He eventually became part of the D-Line, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ official drumline.

When Mixon came home for Thanksgiving, he stopped by and practiced with the current band members at the high school, Teston said. “He talked about how things were going,” said Teston, who had played with Mixon back in high school. “He didn’t really like Afghanistan, but he enjoyed the Army.”

As the news circulated through his close-knit circle of friends and family, the thought that he was happy in the Army provided some comfort. “Everyone was scared” when Mixon left to finish his deployment, his aunt, Ginny Mixon, said through her tears Friday afternoon. “But he was doing what he wanted to do.”

When Mixon finished up his tour, several friends said, he planned on going to culinary school, building on his love of cooking. Although home for only a short time on his last visit back, he managed to indulge that love, too, whipping up a batch of hot wings.

Mixon's step-father, Harold Bargeron, who went to Dover for the arrival of his remains, said Kelly enjoyed being home with family at Thanksgiving.

"He was a fine young man, a good soldier I thought," Bargeron said. "Of course, I wasn't with him while he was in service, but he told some stories about his basic training and all that. He was good, and he loved to fish."

Army Spc. Kelly J. Mixon was killed in action on 12/08/10.

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