James Russell remembers the subtle hints that his son wanted to become an Army captain.
He watched as Drew Russell spent much of his childhood positioning platoons of toy soldiers across his Michigan home in mock battles. It wasn’t so much play time as it was practice, James Russell said.
“I always looked at him and wondered if he was (Gen. George) Patton come back to life.”
Capt. Drew Russell’s life was cut short on Saturday in an attack that in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, that also claimed another Fort Carson captain.
Russell, 25, and Joshua Lawrence, 29, of Nashville, Tenn., were killed when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their unit, according to the Department of Defense. The soldiers, both Bronze Star recipients, were serving in their first overseas tours.
Few details about the attack have been released. They are the 325th and 326th Fort Carson soldiers to be killed in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The soldiers were part of the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in the 4th Infantry Division.
The attack brought an abrupt end to Russell’s budding career, which he seemed destined to enter since his days playing with those tiny green plastic soldiers along the steps of his Scotts, Mich., home.
“We’ve been giving away buckets (of toy soldiers) for years,” said James Russell. “Ever since he was a little kid, he was in the Army. That’s what he wanted.”
Drew Russell didn’t wait long to try the real thing.
He joined the National Guard at age 17, training over the summer while studying criminal justice and military science.
He was a distinguished military graduate in 2008 from Western Michigan University’s ROTC program. That year, he joined the Army and soon was stationed at Fort Carson.
A few weeks into his deployment to Afghanistan, Drew Russell became captain of a tank unit, his proud father said.
Immediately, he craved the leadership that his new rank demanded.
“Drew always seemed to look for the one that was standing by himself and would go after him and pull him in,” said James Russell. “We always said that you never knew where your next best friend was going to come walking in the door. And Drew always was looking for him.”
Drew Russell was a “unique mix,” his father said — “intimidating” but a “big softy.”
And he was known for practical jokes, such as the time he broke into his friend’s house while she was on vacation and ripped the labels off of every can of food.
“She spent three or four months guessing what dinner was going to be,” said James Russell, breaking into laughter.
Those lighthearted moments, though, have proven fleeting in the days since the attack.
“I haven’t cried in two hours, so that’s kind of a record for me,” said James Russell on Monday afternoon. “He was a good boy.”
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