Marine Lance Corporal Thomas Reilly Jr., 19, of London, Kentucky, died in Anbar province, Iraq, four days before Christmas, and the day before he became an uncle.
Reilly is remembered in his hometown paper:
The 19-year-old lance corporal — who had considered entering culinary school after his military service — was killed in combat Sunday while serving in Iraq.
Mary King, Reilly's former teacher and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America advisor, said she kept in contact with her former student after he had been deployed to Iraq over the summer.
King said Reilly's mother, Georgina Bray of London, was given the news of her son's death at the hospital in Harlan, where her daughter Regina had just given birth.
"I had talked to him just a few days ago, and I just had mailed a card on Saturday and I got this news Monday," King said. "He was killed Sunday, 10 p.m. our time."
King said Reilly's mother had signed for him to become a recruit at age 17. Reilly graduated from South Laurel High School in May 2007, and from boot camp last October. He had been stationed in Hawaii and was deployed to Iraq in July.
"That's just what he wanted to do," King said. "He saw that (the Marines) as a place he could excel and be a leader and be someone who could be in charge and move on up in the ranks."
At South Laurel High School, Reilly showed his potential to lead as an office holder in both the local and regional chapters of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a national organization for students in Family and Consumer Sciences education, formerly known as home economics.
"He took the lead in things like that," King said. "His senior year he was a teacher's aide for me. He was very reliable.
"He was very interested and had a talent in culinary," King added. "He could decorate cakes really well... He was interested in maybe doing a culinary school at some point."
Carol Eicher, a former FCCLA advisor at South Laurel, said Reilly was a wonderful student and that club members had continued to write to him after he was stationed in Iraq. Reilly also came by the high school to say goodbye to teachers and friends before his deployment — something Eicher said he was very proud about.
"He had his dress blues on, and I gave him a big hug and I said 'please be safe,'" Eicher recalled. "...He just looked so handsome."
No, President-Elect Obama; 16 months is not remotely close to fast enough. 16 days is far, far too slow.