One soldier was dead. Two were wounded. In the chaos of the moment following a roadside bomb explosion in May of 2007, the only thing that mattered for most of the soldiers in Kurt Curtiss' platoon was getting everyone to safety. But Curtiss looked at the world differently. He'd been in Iraq before. He'd lost other friends in combat. He knew that there would be others coming down that same road. And at least one fellow soldier believes that lives may have been saved by Curtiss' conduct under fire on that day.
    Just over two years later, in another war, thousands of miles away, it was Curtiss who gave his life. The Utah soldier, who was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 26, was remembered in a candlelight memorial outside his mother's home in South Ogden on Monday.
    Most of those who attended the ceremony knew Curtiss before he left for the Army. They spoke of his long hair, his good humor and his steadfast friendship. They remembered his love for the martial arts, his devotion to his fellow Lakota Indians and his penchant for food fights.
    Bryan Druce remembered Curtiss in another way: As a consummate soldier.
    When it was time to brief the intelligence officers on what had happened on that deadly night in 2007, it was Curtiss who stepped forward.
    "No one had paid attention because we were so worried about getting the casualties out," said Druce, who served with Curtiss in Iraq and recently left the service to begin school at Salt Lake Community College. "But Kurt told the intel officers exactly what the problem was. He told them what had gone wrong. And he had noticed a lot of things that a lot of us had overlooked."
    That, Druce said, helped the Army put together a clearer picture of an attack that had claimed lives -- and may have allowed steps to be taken to prevent a similar attack.
    The two Utahns met shortly before deploying for Iraq in October 2006. Both had served earlier tours in Iraq. And Druce said he was happy to have another combat-tested soldier on his team.
    "He was a very straight-forward guy," Druce said. "He told you what he thought. And no matter if you were giving him good remarks or bad, he was thoughtful and contemplative about it."
    "He was a mentor," Druce said. "He had experience, and he had been there before. So whenever he got the chance, he would say, 'hey, we can do this better.' And then he would go out and help his men prepare to do that."
    Curtiss' mother, Ruth Serrano, said her son did change a bit after he joined the military in 2001 -- and especially after returning home from his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2003.
    But she had no trouble reconciling the two sides of her boy.
    "He was always honorable," she said. "He always treated his family -- and everyone else -- with respect."
    As taps was sounded on Serrano's lawn in South Ogden, the grieving mother wept quietly and clutched a bundle of burning sage leaves. But later, as a poem was read that the fallen soldier had written during his earlier tour of duty in Iraq, she sat straight up in her chair, sad but sober-faced.
    "I would gladly risk my life again," Curtiss had written toward the end of the 2007 tour, in which several members of his unit were killed. "I would gladly take their place."
    That might have been what led Curtiss to Afghanistan. The last Druce had heard, his friend had been selected to stay behind to man his Alaska-based unit's rear detachment.
    "Next thing I hear, he's in Afghanistan," Druce said. "I didn't even know he was over there, until this happened."