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Family and Friends Remember Springfield Native Killed in Iraq

Fourteen American soldiers were killed last Wednesday when their black hawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq. Among the fatalities was 21-year-old Missouri resident Jessy Pollard, a tall and handsome Army Ranger, known for his endearing smile that won the hearts of those who knew him. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

The first day of school at Glendale High in Springfield, Missouri looked and sounded like any other day...dimly lit hallways packed with students, teachers monitoring the groups of chattering teens. What made this day different was that it started with news that a 2003 graduate had been killed in Iraq the day before.

Most of the students weren't around when Jessy Pollard was a student here but Tracy Bruton was.

She was his art teacher for three years. She says he had a special place in her heart.

"He really responded well to people who were genuine because he was genuine. He was who he was. He was just a lot of fun to be around. He just kind of had that, that look in his eye. There's just enough orneriness to keep things interesting. I love that and so I did, I really, really did adore him."

Jessy Pollard was also adored by his family and it's evident in the photographs that hang on the walls of Jobie Goslee's home. Jessy Pollard was Goslee's oldest one of the photographs from a few years ago, he's reclining on the floor decked out in a party hat, a huge smile on his face.

Goslee: "There's a good one. That says Jessy's raising cane, laying on my family room floor, smiling and enjoying being with the rest of his cousins."

Shelton: "You can just see what fun he was having, huh?"

Goslee: "Yes. Can't you see with that picture? That's a good expression of how he was."

Jessy Pollard had wanted to be a soldier for a long time and after high school he joined the army and volunteered for Ranger school. Physically, he was such a big guy, that he served as a back-up for the commanding officer of his platoon. He shipped out late last year and surprised his family just weeks ago when he came home for a short leave. Jobie Goslee knew when his grandson visited, he'd want to kid around about his height.

"I'm six, four and he was very tickled and rubbed it in to his granddad when he became taller than I. He had a lot of fun with that. Whenever he would come home, he'd kind of put his arm around my shoulder and say, 'Hi, Grandad.' And kind of look down at me you know? So, I'd remember that he was now taller than me."

Sydney Croxdale says she was like a grandmother to Jessy Pollard. She was there for many of the "firsts" in his life. As she's grieving, those are the moments that come to mind.

"For some reason we were keeping him for an evening and took him out and bought him his first ice cream cone. And managed to take home a chocolate ice cream-covered little boy who was very happy."

Those who knew Jessy Pollard say he kept that happiness as he grew up. His high school art teacher, Tracy Bruton remembers him as an endearing young man, trying to find his place in the world.

"I think of that puppy, that big gangly puppy whose feet are too big. And eventually, he grows into those feet. And it sounds sounds like, he grew into those feet and did it in a very, very good way."

Jessy Pollard had been expecting to transfer to Hawaii in October and his family says he was thinking about becoming a career soldier.