by Lance Cpl. Geoffrey Ingersoll
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq - "Everyone needs a hero. Sergeant Laird was mine," said Lt. Col. Carol L. Anderson, her voice edging toward an emotional waver.
"He died without concern for self," said Anderson, battalion commander of the 46th Engineer Battalion, which currently operates out of Camp Taqaddum, home to the 1st Marine Logistics Group.
Soldiers from the 913th Engineer Company, 46th Engineer Combat Battalion filled the Main Side Chapel August 8, 2006, to pay tribute to the life of Sgt. Dustin D. Laird.
The 23-year-old Tennessee native died August 2, 2006, from wounds received while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar Province.
"He was a very courageous person, and he will be honored in my heart forever," said a grief-stricken Spc. Bobbie Jo Nolen, a 20-year-old native of Dover, Tenn.
Army Capt. Timothy E. Roberts, company commander for 913th Eng. Co., said Laird, although seriously injured, insisted upon being propped up so that he could see out the humvee window.
"He wanted to make sure his soldiers were alright, and to continue scanning the convoy route for potential threats," added Roberts.
"I had the pleasure of serving with an extraordinary man," said Sgt. 1st Class David N. Street, a 42-year-old native of Dickson, Tenn., adding that Laird's presence made everyone's life richer.
"I know if he were here today, he would smile, make us laugh and get us through to the next day," said Street.
While those who spoke honored Laird for his courage and compassion, they didn't forget his habit for humor. They remembered him for his ability to bring laughter and joy to any situation.
Sergeant 1st Class Kevin M. Ray, a 43-year-old native of Kenton, Tenn., remembered Laird as always having a crowd surrounding him, with laughter filling the air.
For one morning, somber sobs and the sad sound of taps replaced laughter and joy in the crowded chapel, with memories of Laird on the forefront of everyone's minds.
"He was one of the good ones," said Street. "I loved him as a person; I respected him as a man (and) I became a better leader for knowing him as a soldier."
Laird was posthumously promoted to sergeant, and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.