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Interrupting my vacation because this hasn't been reported by the local media: Lee Deal, formerly of Alexandria and West Monroe, Louisiana, was killed in Iraq late last week. I knew Lee and his brother Justin while a student at Nachman Elementary. He was a dear friend of many of my friends, and I know that he will be sorely missed. Coincidentally, when Lee moved to West Monroe, he became friends with the girl I took to prom. Lee was a Navy Corpsman attached to a Marines unit. He had been in the military for about three years. Here is an article about Lee from the News Star: Deal a 'strong, brave man' Friends remember lost soldier as a magnetic, infectious person By Greg Hilburn ghilburn@thenewsstar.com Lee Deal was quick with a smile and a joke, but also had a serious side and was driven to succeed, those who knew him said on Thursday. Deal's friends and family were mourning the loss of the gregarious West Monroe man who died a hero on Wednesday in Iraq, where he was serving his country as a petty officer, third class in the Navy. "It still doesn't seem real to me," said Michael Peterson, one of Deal's two best friends along with Andrew Whitworth. "I talked to him about two weeks ago and he sounded confident and strong." Deal, 23, was a medic attached to the Marine B Company 2nd Recon Battalion. A Navy spokesman said details of Deal's death as well as when his body would be returned home will be released during the next few days. Peterson said he, Deal and Whitworth were inseparable at West Monroe High School, where they all played football, and continued to be close after high school. "It was always us three," said Peterson, who was notified of his friend's death by two Navy officers at Peterson's parents' home on Wednesday. "I still have a suitcase with his clothes in my trunk because he stayed at my house sometimes when he was home. I'm just going to leave that suitcase in my trunk." Deal's grandparents, Charlotte and Nick Hamilton of Oak Grove, said the family wasn't yet emotionally ready to talk publicly about Deal, although Charlotte said, "He was a great kid." His mother Melanie Deal is staying with the Hamiltons. His father Harry Deal lives in Sipan, Australia. "The biggest thing about Lee is he never wanted anybody to feel bad," Peterson said. "You'd hook up with him and you couldn't help but feel better if you were down." Deal made friends easily and quickly became popular with classmates when he moved to West Monroe in junior high school. "Lee didn't move here until junior high school, but he was elected president of the student council," said Lisa Miller, who taught Deal at West Monroe Junior High and later was his guidance counselor at West Monroe High. "People just loved him. This just breaks my heart." Mark Banks, a West Monroe High School classmate, said Deal "got along with everybody, and he was always a happy guy. He was fun to be around," Banks said. West Monroe classmate Jarred Frost had similar recollections of his friend, saying Deal "always made something fun. He could make something fun out of nothing," Frost said. But Deal did experience disappointments after high school, his friends said. An All-State kicker on West Monroe's national championship team in 2000, Deal hoped to continue playing football in college and followed Whitworth to LSU. He roomed with Whitworth, who was drafted by the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month, for a year, but later left for Northwestern State University in Natchitoches." "He had some ups and downs; we both did," Peterson said. "He went to two colleges and I went to four. But he finally made a decision to join the Navy, grew up and found his passion. "Lee finally found his place. He was a strong, brave young man, and I couldn't be prouder of him." Originally published May 19, 2006