Army Spc. David A. Croft Jr.
22, of Plant City, Fla.; assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Jan. 5 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire.
(Taken from www.2.tbo.com of Jan. 7, 2010) Years before he joined the Army, Plant City native Spc. David A. Croft Jr. was always trying to make his world a better place.
About age 15, he brought his mother three abandoned kittens that needed a home. He even brought home a wounded hawk, but it had to be taken to the humane society.
"He was my hero, he's always been my hero," said his mother, Vickie, 44.
Instead celebrating David Croft's 23rd birthday Friday, his family will be planning his funeral.
The Durant High School graduate was killed in Baghdad this week, according to the Department of Defense.
His unit was shot at by insurgents who also detonated an improvised explosive device.
Croft was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas.
Croft was about two weeks away from returning home to his fiancée, Susie Clark, said his sister, Robin, 25. He has three sisters and a younger brother.
"He was a very good brother and an even better uncle to nephews and nieces," his sister Andrea Pryor, 29, said.
This was Croft's second tour in Iraq since he enlisted in 2005. It was supposed to be the easier one because his assignment didn't involve leaving the base much, Robin Croft said.
Vickie Croft and two daughters are preparing to receive the body Thursday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
His finance said she planned to move to Texas to live with Croft after he returned from Iraq. They were planning a summer wedding.
"We were ready to start our lives together," said Clark, a 21-year-old Brandon resident.
They were introduced by Clark's best friend, Gina Giuliani. Clark, who was 16 at the time, knew right away that they were meant to be together, Giuliani said.
Shortly after the introduction, Clark told Giuliani, "I'm going to marry him some day."
Clark said she was drawn to Croft by his personality and movie-star looks. He competed in Durant High's Mr. Cougar contest for best physique, she recalled.
The couple attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Plant City and "God was a big part of our lives," she said.
Croft was proud to be a soldier and was "very brave," Clark said.
But he "kept a lot of things to himself" about his time in the warzone, said Clark's mother, Linda Ballenger. He was particularly shaken up by the death of his commanding officer during Croft's first tour of Iraq, she said.
Dannie Sawyer, 40, an uncle to Croft, said his nephew joined the Army right out of high school.
"Last time he was home he told me his unit was policing an area in Baghdad. They were protecting residents and property owners from the insurgents. He died trying to help people he didn't even know. He's a hero to me."
David Harless, 30, a neighbor who knew Croft for the past 10 years, said Croft was a fine young man.
"He went and did something he believed in when he joined the Army. He died doing something he believed in. I only wish that I could say it was right. But I can't," Harless said.
Croft's best friend by everyone's standard was Jacob Hollifield, a neighbor who graduated with Croft from Durant High in 2005.
"We were always together. As little kids we rode go carts, fished and went camping together all the time. You didn't see one without the other. We called each other's parents mom and dad," he said.
Croft always went by Hollifield's home when he came home on leave.
"His mother had friends call me and tell me what happened. I'm still in a daze. I am sad, but I am mostly mad that someone would do that to a person like David," he said.
I do understand he is in a better place," Hollifield said. "I do understand he can be with his father, now. But I didn't get to give him a hug. I didn't get to be with him and tell him goodbye, or tell him how much he meant to me."
On a Dec. 29 entry on his MySpace page, David Croft listed his mood as "anxious" and said he was "almost home."
The family says service arrangements haven't been made but will be in Plant City.