Mississippi’s first casualty this year from the war in Afghanistan died at the hands of an Afghan soldier who was guarding a joint operating base with him in the Helmand province, officials said.
Wednesday’s death of Marine Lance Cpl. Edward Dycus, 22, of Greenville is under investigation, military officials say. Details were not released.
“He’s not just another dead soldier,” said childhood friend Kayla Bevill. “He wasn’t killed by ‘the enemy.’ He was killed by someone that was supposed to be helping him guard, and that’s what hurts the most.”
Dycus was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, Mississippi has had 70 military personnel killed in action, according to www.militarytimes.com. In 2011, Marine Staff Sgt. Jason A. Rogers, Army Staff Sgt. David D. Self, Army Sgt. Christopher R. Bell, and Navy Master-at-Arms 1st Class (AW) Stacy O. Johnson were Mississippi’s casualties.
Western Line School District Superintendent Larry Green said talks are in the works to have a candlelight service for Dycus, and about making the school grounds available for his funeral when arrangements are made.
Plans for a memorial service also are pending, officials said, but they believe Dycus’ body will arrive in Greenville on Saturday.
Lonnie Moorman, a friend, said Dycus entered boot camp in 2010 and hadn’t been in Afghanistan more than a few months when he was shot.
“Eddie was born for the military. He thrived in a situation like that,” Moorman said.
Dycus’ friends said he grew up in a tight-knit family, but switched schools a few times, and sometimes saw himself as a bit of an outsider.
“It was hard on him growing up, but he never let that show. He always had a smile on his face,” Bevill said. “No matter how his day or anything in his life was going, he was going to be there to put himself aside and make you smile. He was always more worried about someone else than himself.”
Elizabeth Scrivner, Dycus’ sophomore biology teacher at Riverside High School, said Dycus had a potential greatness about him even when he was younger.
“He was one of those students that when you see him walk into the room, you see more than he sees yet,” she said.
When he came back to visit the school recently, Scrivner said, he was wearing his uniform, and his demeanor was one of pride.
“I couldn’t even say anything at first, it took me aback,” she said. “I could feel the confidence he had in himself that I saw years before. And the way he held himself in that uniform, the Marines couldn’t have been any prouder than I was of him at that moment.”
Dycus graduated from Riverside High in 2008. Principal Donald Coleman said he wasn’t there while Dycus was in school, but he knows him because a brother and sister are still enrolled there.
Coleman said the death hit hard for more than one reason.
“I went to Afghanistan myself in 2005, and had a lot of young soldiers under me,” he said. “I made friends who didn’t make it back, and I had to stand at attention as they drove their bodies by to fly them back home. I’m proud that they risked their lives so we can have freedom.”
Green said it’s always a tragedy when a soldier gives his or her life in the fight for freedom. On the whole, he said, people tend to have more sympathy and empathy for soldiers now than they have in the past.
“We never get over it. It always stops you and hits home,” he said. “When it’s one of our own, it’s much closer, so it’s been pretty tough on us and the kids and the faculty.”
Greenville Mayor Chuck Jordan extended his sympathies to Dycus’ family.
“His death was not in vain,” he said. “It is a reaffirmation of the importance of the effort he and our servicemen and women are working for and fighting for each day.”
Moorman said his friend taught him an important lesson about life.
“Just not to waste time, not to second-guess yourself,” he said. “One thing he made perfectly clear to me is always go after what you want.”
Since high school, Dycus had wanted to be in the military, Bevill said.
“It was one of those things he was born to do,” she said. “He was beyond brave.”
Lance Cpl Dycus is the 1,891st American to die in Afghanistan … ich hatt’ einen Kameraden