by John Rutherford, NBC producer
Three soldiers who fought and died together in Iraq were buried together this week at Arlington National Cemetery. Staff Sgt. Harrison Brown, Pfc. David Neil Simmons, and Sgt. Todd Singleton were killed Easter Sunday by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Their remains were interred in a single casket in section 60, gravesite 8058 of the cemetery. Members of each of their families attended the brief graveside service.
Harrison Brown, 31, picked up the nickname "Duck" growing up in Prichard, Ala. "They said he waddled like a duck when he ran," his sister, Mary Dozier, told the Tuscaloosa News. He was also known as a "gentle giant" for his quiet, easy-going ways. "Duck probably didn't get more than four whippings his entire life," his sister told the News. But his laid-back style masked an outstanding wide receiver who earned a football scholarship to Tuskegee University. He dropped out after a year and joined the Army to provide for his wife and children. "He said he had to do it to take care of his children," his sister told the News. "I was upset about that. I wanted that degree." Brown spent 13 years in the Army and raised three daughters, ages 9, 12, and 14. He was on his third tour in Iraq when he was killed on April 8 by the roadside bomb. "He was a fine person all around," his high school coach told the Associated Press. "If you want a son, you want one like him."
David Neil Simmons, 20, loved doing impressions and idolized actor Jim Carrey. He was always "Little Neil" as a child in Kokomo, Ind., even after a late growth spurt to 5-foot-11. "We laughed about it because one time Mom put him in the same shirt two years in a row for his school picture and didn't even realize it," his brother told the Associated Press. Simmons graduated from high school in 2005 and joined the Army. He had been in Iraq only a week when he was killed. Both Simmons and Brown were with the 3rd Infantry Division. Simmons' family was notified of his death on Easter evening as they were preparing a care package for him. "We were going to barrage him with snacks and stuff," his uncle told WTHR-TV. But the care package was never sent. Simmons' father saw two officers standing at his door. "I thought, 'This can't be right, it's something else,'" his father told the television station. "It really hurt. My heart goes out to all the families who have to go through this."
Todd Singleton, 24, of Muskegon, Mich., enlisted in the Army in 2001 and was on his second tour in Iraq. "He said he wasn't going to make the military his career, but he kept re-enlisting," his wife, Stephanie, told the Muskegon Chronicle. They first met in 9th grade at Reeths-Puffer High School in Muskegon. Their daughter, Emma, was born two weeks before Singleton left for Iraq last October. "At least he got to see her," Stephanie told the Chronicle. "At least he got to hold her." Singleton was with the 1st Cavalry Division in Sadr City, one of the toughest areas of Baghdad. His unit was fighting alongside Brown and Simmons' unit when the three soldiers were killed by the bomb blast. Singleton was scheduled home on leave a few weeks later. "We were going to get a family picture taken," Stephanie told the Chronicle. She has only one snapshot of the three of them together, taken just before he left for Iraq. "My heart just stops when I think about him."
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He posts a weekly blog on burials of service members at Arlington National Cemetery.