Sgt. Jean Paul Medlin finished a stint in the Marines and then felt compelled to rejoin the military again after the United States invaded Iraq, opting for the Army this time.
On Saturday, the 27-year-old soldier from Trussville was among six U.S. troops killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.
Medlin, who had been a Marine sniper, was a skilled soldier and would have survived the bombing had he not been in a vehicle, said father Ronnie Medlin.
"If he had been on foot it never would have happened; he was smart tactically," his father told The Birmingham News in a story Wednesday.
Tommy Tyler met Medlin in the second grade and the two later served together as Marines. After the service, Medlin moved to Pelham and enrolled in Jefferson State Community College, Tyler said. But Medlin decided to return to the military, joining the Army, after fighting began in Iraq.
"He just couldn't take it anymore; he had to go," Tyler said. "He wanted to fight for his country on the front lines."
Medlin went to Iraq in October with members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas.
Jeff Hendrix, a former teammate of Medlin's, said Medlin seemed to prefer military service to civilian life.
"He seemed happy being around his family and all, but he didn't seem as happy," Hendrix said.
He put all of his heart into his military service, Medlin's sister, Silvia Medlin, said.
During his military career, Medlin obtained several medals, including the Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Global War on Terror (Service) Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and the NATO Medal.
Medlin will likely receive a Marine send-off. "He died as an Army soldier, but he always said he wanted to be remembered as a Marine," Tyler said.