Oklahoma Soldier who died in Iraq interested in military from early age

Friday, January 30th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOOKER, Okla. (AP) -- The mother of an Oklahoma soldier who died when a roadside bomb exploded south of Baghdad said he had an interest in the military from an early age and she was proud when he joined the Army.

2nd Lt. Luke S. James, 24, was one of three soldiers killed in the explosion Tuesday near Iskandariyah. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Lester O. Kinney II, 27, of Zanesville, Ohio, and Sgt. Cory R. Mracek, 26, of Hay Springs, Neb.

James grew up in this town of about 1,500 people in the Oklahoma Panhandle. His father, Bradley James, is a retired Army Reserves major.

"We all just knew that's what he wanted to do," his mother, Arleen James, said in a telephone interview Friday. "He wore the Army fatigues. He enjoyed dressing in those. He'd just say 'I'm playing Army today.' We are talking when he was 3 or 4 years of age."

James played football at Hooker High School and graduated near the top of his class. He graduated from Oklahoma State University, where he was in the ROTC. He earned a degree in animal science.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on Dec. 13, 2002. He became a member of the 82nd Airborne Division and left Fort Bragg, N.C., for Iraq on Jan. 15.

"We had a couple of e-mails from him," Arleen James said. "Things weren't too busy and it was cold and he said that he loved us and missed us.

"We are very thankful for the communications we were able to have."

She said her son enjoyed the camaraderie of the military.

"He certainly died loving what he was doing," she said. "He always wanted to serve his country.

"We are very proud as parents that he had the attitude he had and wanted to serve.

"It wouldn't have been this mother's choice, but you have to have young men and women willing to preserve the freedom we have. We are glad he was willing."

James is survived by his wife, Molly James, of Fayetteville. Their son, Bradley, is 6 months old.

He also is survived by a sister, Sharla, 17, and a brother, Kirby, 21.