Oklahoma soldier killed in accident in Iraq

Tuesday, June 10th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

POTEAU, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoma soldier who was killed in an ordnance accident in Iraq was dedicated to his job and to his country, his family says.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Doyle Wayne Bollinger Jr. died Friday after unexploded ordnance accidentally detonated in the area where he was working, Navy officials announced Monday.

The accident happened about 20 miles north of Baghdad. The explosion, which wasn't combat-related, is under investigation, officials said.

``He marched to the beat of a different drum, and he was happy in his own little world,'' said Pat Eidschun, a retired teacher who taught Bollinger when he was in the seventh grade in Poteau. ``He was so sweet.''

Bollinger, 21, joined the U.S. Navy shortly after high school. He joined the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, whose members are commonly called ``Seabees.''

``Wayne is a very special young man and is proud to be a Navy Seabee. He died defending his country. He is without doubt one of America's finest,'' a family statement said.

The family declined further comment.

``He was always grinning and had a smile on his face,'' Eidschun said. ``He wasn't very big, but he didn't know it. In his mind, he was a giant.''

In Poteau, Bollinger often did odd jobs for people and liked to give people things he'd found or made. Eidschun said she still has a ceramic turtle Bollinger gave her years ago.

Bollinger was assigned to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, based in Gulfport, Miss.

His unit has been in the Middle East since January. The unit provides construction support to the Navy, Marines and other armed forces during military operations.

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