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Died For His Country

The stoic parents of Private First Class Le Ron Wilson remained dry eyed as their son’s coffin was carried out of the Christ the King Church in Springfield Gardens. They had known that their son, one of the youngest local soldiers killed in Iraq, had died on Friday, July 6.
He was killed when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off near the area he and other soldiers were patrolling in Baghdad.
By the time Le Ron was laid to rest nearly two weeks later on Tuesday, July 17, Simona Francis and Lawrence Wilson, who traveled to Queens from Trinidad and Tobago, had already spent many of their tears. At a Catholic mass led by Reverend Jeffrey Dillon and Bishop Octavio Cisneros, they “celebrated” their son’s passing into the next life.
The family spoke of the 18-year-old slain soldier as a passionate teenager, living his dream.
“He was as bright as ever. He had many options. He didn’t want to do anything but that [serve in the military],” Lawrence Wilson, said following the funeral.
Relatives said that the young soldier hoped to follow in the footsteps of his father, a Cadet Force Major in his homeland. Le Ron was also born in Trinidad and Tobago and emigrated to the United States at age 11.
“He wanted to join the Army,” said cousin Tim Alexander, 23. “He was proud of his dream. His whole life that’s what he wanted to do.”
Le Ron’s high school pal, 19-year-old Natalie Alban, said that her friend would constantly talk about enlisting and how he could get his mother to sign a waiver to allow him to join before his 18th birthday.
For his 17th birthday, Simona Francis finally agreed because he told her “I don’t want anything else for my birthday. Just sign the papers for me.”
While friends were planning vacations and filling out college applications, Le Ron was already preparing for the military, friends and family said. Le Ron’s service to his adopted country, the United States, lasted exactly one year and 10 days.
“He was living his dream and it was cut short,” said friend Daniel Rafael, 23.
When Army officials arrived at Simona Francis’ doorstep, she immediately knew that something was wrong, friends said outside of the wake.
“[Le Ron] lit up a room with his big Kool-Aid smile,” said Dawn Jack, whose son Tom was best friends with Le Ron at Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica Estates. “Just being in his presence for five minutes, it was a pleasure.”
An outgoing prankster, Le Ron remained focused on school and his future.
“Like anyone would be, she’s devastated,” Portia Oscar, Le Ron’s aunt by marriage, said of Simona Francis. “He is her first one.”
Oscar added that Le Ron was very close to his little brother, Nicholas, 5.
“The bond is there. It is very strong,” Oscar said of the siblings.
Meanwhile, military officials praised Le Ron’s parents for their strength after the loss.
General Bill Phillips told mourners, “[Le Ron] loved the Army. He loved serving.”
From speaking with loved ones over the past few days, Phillips said that he had come to know the young soldier even without getting the opportunity to meet him.
“Wars are fought on a very grand scale, but they are won on a personal scale by people like Le Ron Wilson,” Phillips said, before handing Le Ron’s parents the Good Conduct Medal, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and Combat Action Badge that their son had earned. Phillips also gave the parents Le Ron’s dog tags.
“He is not forgotten. We will remember him forever for the courageous soldier that he was,” Phillips said.
— With additional reporting by Natalie Shields

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