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A final salute to a soldier
Ronald Tanner Wood came into this world destined to be a soldier. During his funeral on Tuesday in Cedar City, that perception was conveyed by family, friends and military officials who spoke about the 28-year-old Wood, a former resident of this southwestern Utah city and sergeant first class with the U.S. Army's 148th Field Artillery Battalion, killed July 16 when the vehicle he was in passed a roadside bomb in Kirkuk, Iraq.
His father, Ron Wood Sr., said both of his son's grandfathers served honorably in World War II, one with the 10th Mountain Division and the other with an airborne division.
"He was born with a crew cut," said Wood's father. "He was bald on the sides of his head, but had a lot of hair in the middle."
The father also said his son did not have a mean bone in his body, adding, "But no one would want to fight him."
He also spoke of the enormous energy his son displayed from the time he was a baby bouncing in his crib and of his selfless, caring personality that everyone admired.
"He was just a perfect child, who wrote with his right hand and batted and caught with his left hand," said Wood's father. "He was the real deal, what you saw is what you got."
Wood's energy and inability to sit still was also recounted by a friend and former roommate, Army Sgt. Eric Irons.
"He got his energy by leaving for work every day with a Red Bull and two 20 ounce cups of coffee," said Irons, who was a member of the 222nd after the Sept. 11 attack in 2001 and assigned to guarding the airport in Cedar City with Wood.
He said Wood's devotion to duty was apparent during the security detail at the airport, by never taking off his equipment to relax, even during a break.
Tuesday's service was broadcast to Bravo Company of the 148th in Iraq, to which Wood was assigned, and the Army's 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, comprising soldiers from southwestern Utah serving in Iraq, and a unit Wood joined in 1994 while still a senior at Cedar City High School, where the funeral was held.
Wood's mother, Jody Wood, thanked residents of Utah and others around the country for their support and condolences.
She said her son's honest disposition made it easy to be a mother.
"He always tried to do the right thing, even in childhood," she said. "He was like an assistant parent as the oldest, [of five children], caring deeply and always wondering if everyone was OK. It's something he carried with him the rest of his life."
The worst thing she could remember her son ever doing was once stealing sugar cubes from a cupboard with one of his brothers.
His three brothers and sister also spoke highly of Wood, recalling how he was always working out to stay fit.
Brother John Wood said he looked up to his older brother like a father.
"He may be gone physically, but will still always be with me," he said.
Younger brother, Cody, sang a song he wrote in remembrance of Wood, which included lyrics of loss, hope and patriotism.
Wood's younger sister, Julie Langreder, said her brother liked the heavy-metal band Metallica, movies and she will always remember him in his blue jeans, white shirt and half-smile.
"He taught me how to be an American," she said.
Brother Nathan, a member of the Utah National Guard, said his brother had a heart of gold and, even if he wondered if he could ever kill, was military all the way.
"He would do what he had to to protect the innocent and his own men," said Nathan Wood. "A better man I'll never know."
Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the adjunct general of the Utah National Guard, said it was a privilege to know Wood's family and speak at the funeral.
Tarbet said if Wood had been a professional athlete, he would have been an impact player who made an immediate difference when put in the game. "That's what he did for us," said Tarbet.
He said Wood was the "total package" of what a soldier should be.
"He had the warrior spirit and sealed his duty to honor and country with his own blood," said Tarbet.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. praised Wood for his determination in seeing that the Iraqis would enjoy the benefits of democracy, liberty and a civil society.
"It never would have happened without soldiers like Wood," said Huntsman. "He will not be forgotten beyond today. To the Iraqi people he will be recognized as a glimmer of light."
During the service at Cedar City High School attended by about 250 people, Wood's family received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct medals and a Combat Action Badge on his behalf.
Burial was at the Hurricane Cemetery.
After the services, Greg Quick, who is in Wood's company in Iraq but home on leave, said he and Wood hung out together and that his friend was a good person.
"He was a soldier at heart," said Quick. "He loved being a soldier."
Quick said when he returns to Iraq on Friday, his determination to do the best he can will be stronger than ever from having known Wood.
"I will definitely have more honor in wearing the uniform," said Quick.