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Remembering John Landry

Private First Class John Landry Jr. will be laid to rest this morning with full military honors in the town of Wilmington. The infantryman died in Baghdad March 17th, when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle.

Landry graduated in 2005 from Lowell Catholic High School. And last night, teachers and classmates held a memorial service there in his honor. WBUR's Curt Nickisch reports.

TEXT OF STORY

CURT NICKISCH: Outside the school auditorium, former classmates of John Landry are looking at photos from freshman year. Including the one where Landry is wearing a fireman's hat and yellow rain slickers, part of a football team induction ritual.

GROUP OF FORMER STUDENTS: Yeah, Landry fell down! He grabbed his leg and started spinning. Spinning like a wildman. Wow, he's a little guy, too!

NICKISCH: It sounds cheesy, but in almost every photo, John Landry is smiling.

COLLEEN TULLY: Well first of all you have to know, he was a funny funny kid.

NICKISCH: Colleen Tully was Landry's English teacher freshman year. That was 2001. She remembers how after the war started in Afghanistan, she had the class write letters to a school alumnus deployed there. She says while most students wrote obvious things like 'We're proud of you,' Landry kept it real:

TULLY: And he said, well I just wanted to tell what's going on back here in Lowell. In case you're wondering, they finished the Pizza Hut on Chelmsford Street. So he was telling him like local news. Like really local news! Things that would be important to a fourteen-year-old: a new Pizza Hut that was right down the street.

NICKISCH: Tully says Landry was not a straight-A student, but he worked hard. He was not the type to chair a committee or run for class president. But if there was a clothing drive, Landry would be there to help, and Tully says, to make people laugh. She remembers how one day:

TULLY: He came to school with a Mohawk. This is a Catholic, college preparatory high school and he came to school with a Mohawk. And he was told, John, no, and the next day it was shaved, and his head was shaved. So he certainly wasn't a rebel, but he had a funny streak to him. What a memorable kid, you know?

NICKISCH: One of his friends remembers John Landry as kindhearted. In high school, Chris Arguoyan had leg surgery and wore crutches - struggled on the stairs. He says Landry would carry his books between classes.

CHRIS ARGUOYAN: Didn't matter if he had a test next period, he didn't mind being late, you know? He was always one of those guys who'd do anything for you. You know, you'd go to a party somewhere, and it could be ten guys against you, he wouldn't care. Ten on two, he'd jump in for you, get his ass kicked for you. You know he was to the end. He had the kind of heart and loyalty that few people have.

NICKISCH: That was evident on the football field, too, where Landry played in the offensive line - protecting the quarterback. His coach, Tim Walsh, remembers:

COACH TIM WALSH: John was an over achiever. He had a certain amount of talent, but he had a great deal of desire. A very tough kid, very committed. He was in the pits, so to speak — football people know what I'm talking about. He would get down and dirty and mix it up with anybody and not back up.

NICKISCH: Those qualities served Landry well in the Army; he joined after graduating in 2005. As a rifleman in the 1st Cavalry Division, he deployed to Iraq last fall. His uncle, Bill Landry, says John took his missions seriously, but still let some of the things he saw there touch his heart.

BILL LANDRY: They were out on a patrol and he called home — he was upset because he found a dead puppy. And he wanted to bury the puppy and everything. It was just unbelievable, the kid.

NICKISCH: Army Private First Class John Landry Junior died in Baghdad, when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. It was St. Patrick's Day. For his former teacher Colleen Tully that day will forever be linked to John's memory.

TULLY: Aside from the fact that nobody would say anything bad about him anyway, but, I really don't think anyone would have anything bad to say about John Landry. He just — what a delightful human being he was. So it just kills you. Just kills you.

NICKISCH: John Landry, Jr. was twenty years old.

For WBUR, I'm Curt Nickisch.

This program aired on March 27, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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