Last updated: August 23. 2013 8:23PM - 407 Views

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    ELIDA -- As news of the death of a hometown soldier in Iraq passed through the community Friday, those who knew Todd Reese remembered him as a quiet man who worked hard at whatever task confronted him.    Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese, a 1990 Elida High School graduate, died in Iraq on Thursday after falling out of a boat while on patrol on the Tigris River, a raging waterway with a rough current, south of Baghdad. He was 31.    Spc. Todd Bates, 20, of Bellaire, was listed as missing and presumed dead after diving into the river to try to rescue Reese, who was his squad leader, the Ohio Adjutant General reported Friday.    Reese, the son of Ed and Joanne Reese, of Elida, was the first Ohio National Guard soldier to die as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the second soldier from the region killed during the war in Iraq. U.S. Marine Christian Gurtner, of Ohio City, was killed April 2.    In a statement through the military, his family declined to be interviewed. Reese's sister, April Engstrom, in a statement through the     GRAD/A7      GRAD/from A1    military, said, "(Todd) was a loving husband, son, father and brother. He loved doing his job and serving his country. He felt that it was his duty to serve and he loved the soldiers in his squad."    On Friday, faculty and former students at Elida High School shared their memories of Todd Reese.    Reese's Latin teacher of four years, Mike Herzog, remembered Reese as a young man who always had a smile.    "He didn't have a bad day. He was always in a positive mood. Somebody you would look forward to walking in the room," Herzog said. "When I heard his name today, the first thing I thought of was his smile."    Gary Evans, a business teacher who coached Reese in track and football, said Reese was not a star athlete who possessed a natural ability, but made up for it with his hard work.    "He was one of those guys who got to practice and would work very hard," Evans said.    Reese was a member of the track team in 1989 and 1990 when it won two Western Buckeye League championships. He was a hurdler, Evans said.    "That was the best (team) I've ever had," Evans said.    On the football team, Reese was a defensive back.    Elida High School Principal Don Diglia said the news of Reese's death really hits home and reminds him of the dangers of war.    Herzog agreed.    "It makes the war a lot closer. We read about the war and the numbers. It still sounds like numbers until you hear a name you know," Herzog said.    Herzog used to run into Reese's mother when she worked in produce several years ago at what is now Ray's Clocktower Plaza, he said.    Like any mother, she always worried about her son, especially since he was in the military, Herzog said.    Reese joined the military after high school and was a six-year member of the Ohio Army National Guard 709th Military Police Battalion and the 135th Military Police Company. Reese also had served seven years active duty in the Army, which had taken him to Korea, Panama, Honduras, Kuwait, Cuba and London.    While serving in Honduras, he met his wife, Emilia, who he married on Nov. 29, 1996. The couple lived outside of Columbus in Reynoldsburg and had two young children under the age of 6 -- Anthony and Nicole.    Reese was just home two weeks ago visiting his family before he returning to Iraq the day after Thanksgiving. A family member said Reese had planned to leave the military when his time was up, possibly as early as next month.    Reese came from a family with a long and proud history of military service. His grandmother, Beda Shafer, of Lima, was a longtime president of the American Gold Star Mothers, a group of mothers who had a child killed during military service. She lost her son, Sgt. James D. Shafer, in Vietnam in 1967. James Shafer was a 1960 graduate of Elida High School.    Although Reese left the Lima area after high school, old friends like Erick Hayes, a 1988 graduate of Elida High School, remembered running track with Reese. Like Reese, Hayes left the area after high school and last saw Reese about 10 years ago, he said.    "He was an all-around good guy," said Hayes, who today lives in Lima. "He was never negative about things. He never had any enemies."    Just two months ago, Reese's parents received a letter from their son's platoon leader, 1st Lt. William F. Lee, who said Reese was an outstanding leader.    "I thought you should hear how well your son is serving his country," Lee wrote in the letter dated Aug. 11. "My first impression of your son was exceptional and he has continued to prove that he is an outstanding leader."    Reese had completed numerous combat missions in and around Baghdad during the summer and was well respected, Lee wrote.    "(Todd) takes great pride in the execution of his duties; proper training of his soldiers and is no doubt one of my best leaders," Lee wrote.    Reese had great pride in serving his country, Lee wrote.    "I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve with such a fine young man. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve with such an honorable soldier," Lee said.    Next week, Reese's body will be returned home for funeral arrangements.     

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