Friday, August 25, 2006

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2-6's Melvin remembered as a tough leader

By Terry Boyd, Stars and Stripes


BAUMHOLDER, Germany — When Staff Sgt. Tracy Melvin was asked whether he was prepared for his E-7 promotion board, he shook his head no, Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Gonzalez said.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to be promoted just yet. I love being a squad leader,’” Gonzalez said.

During a memorial Wednesday, Melvin, a 31-year-old career soldier from the 1st Armored Division’s hard-hit Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment who was killed in action in Iraq, was remembered as an accomplished, highly decorated mentor to his men.

“Tough, rough around the edges ... intimidating in stature, demanding as a leader,” Gonzalez said.

Melvin showed his soldiers that “leadership is more than being tough,” said Capt. Marvin King III, rear-detachment battalion commander. Real leadership “is teaching your soldiers all you can,” said King, who gave one of the tributes.

Melvin, a Seattle native, died Aug. 6 after his unit was hit by an improvised bomb during combat in Ramadi, where 2-6 is one of the units pushing into the insurgent stronghold. He was the 16th Baumholder-based soldier to die during this deployment, noted Maj. Jeanine White, the 2nd Brigade rear-detachment commander.

Melvin, who was on his second Iraq deployment, was from a solid military background. His father, Bill Swindle, was in the Navy and his brother, Michael Swindle, is in the Marines. Melvin’s stepson, Spc. Michael Garcia, also is in 2-6, and was serving with him when he was killed.

Melvin was so thoroughly military, said Chaplain (Col.) James Brown, that Brown wasn’t surprised to learn he had served in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard.

The spit and polish soldiers in the Old Guard, part of the Army’s oldest active regiment, have many ceremonial duties, including guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, as well as combat missions.

In Seattle, Melvin was remembered as a serious military historian. His ex-wife, Sheri Washington, told the Seattle Times that when they were in high school together, Melvin watched The History Channel and read military books while the other kids were hanging out.

The shy teen could recite military history and famous battles from World War II to Vietnam, and even helped a teacher prepare a lecture on the Vietnam War, Washington said.

“I was proud of him,” she said.

Melvin’s death brought yet another day of grieving to Baumholder. As she prepared for the service, White said, she thought about what she could say to encourage people to “stay in the race when things look bleak.”

Finally, she decided she didn’t have to say anything about that.

“Your presence speaks volumes about how the community is bonding … with the strength to fill the chapel for each fallen soldier,” she said. “The community is strong.”

Melvin’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Expert Infantryman Badge. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal.

Melvin is survived by his wife of one year, Mary Melvin; three stepchildren, including Spc. Michael Garcia; his parents, William and Janice Swindle; and his brothers, Michael Swindle and Michael Melvin.

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