Spc. Raymond N. “Neal” Mitchell III died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 6, 2007, from a gunshot wounds sustained during a routine patrol on the streets.
Mitchell, who was born in Smyrna, wanted to become a professional baseball player while at West Memphis Christian High School in Arkansas, but instead went on to become a rifleman in the U.S. Army.
After graduating high school in 2004, Mitchell began attending Arkansas State University, where he was more into computer games than class.
During his first year of college, a recruiter came to campus. Mitchell was very interested and joined the ROTC as a low officer.
As he went to boot camp, or basic, in Fort Benning, Ga., “he was wearing his uniform and had a big smile on his face,” said his grandmother, Joyce Mitchell, now of Winchester.
Mitchell said her grandson always laughed about becoming a comedian and was very lighthearted.
“I wish you could have known him,” she said.
This marks the first person killed in Mitchell’s Charlie Company.
On a rainy day in Smyrna, Mitchell was buried with full honors at Mapleview Cemetery, and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
“I saw an elderly woman without an umbrella standing in the rain waving an American flag,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “Seeing the people took an edge off of the grief.”
Additionally, Rolling Thunder, a group of veterans on motorcycles joined the funeral procession and the Smyrna Fire Department suspended an American flag from the top of a ladder.
Staff Sgt. David Walker, a member of the National Guard and Military Funeral Honors, has performed in over 200 funerals, but said this was only his second KIA (killed in action).
The group of seven serves as a firing team and pallbearers at funerals and also presents a flag and plays Taps on the bugle.
“The program is about taking care of our own,” Walker said.