Andrew Todd Arnold

When Andrew Todd Arnold of Spring, Texas, joined the Marines in 1990, he was extending a family tradition into the third generation.

“His father and grandfather were Marines,” said Merilyn Jerome, a neighbor and friend of the Arnold family for more than 20 years. “His daddy was so proud of him.”

Arnold, 30, joined the Marines right out of Klein Oak High School in Spring, just north of Houston. As the fighting in Iraq wound down, he and his family were eagerly anticipating his return to the United States.

On Easter, two days before the rocket-propelled-grenade accident that cost him his life, Arnold had called his wife, Lisa, in North Carolina.

“He said he’d be home soon, because they were winding things up,” Jerome said.

Arnold and his wife have two children, Austin, 8, and Jessica, 5.

His parents, Jim and Mary Arnold, “had just breathed a sigh of relief thinking he would be home soon,” Jerome said.

The youngest of three children, Arnold was a “real nice kid,” a devout Catholic, and unusually close to his family, Jerome said.

— USA Today, Associated Press