It was an uncommon summer — as if something had brought them together to say their final goodbyes.
    Just two months after his family staged one of its first reunions in years, Capt. Ellery “Ray” Wallace was killed in Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle. The 33-year-old University of Utah grad died Sunday.
    “The Lord was preparing us for it,” said his younger sister Jessica Bayless, who described the end-of-June reunion as divinely inspired for bringing all seven siblings together for a last time.
    Wallace had hardly reached Afghanistan when he was hit. He announced his arrival in mid-August, musing to Facebook friends that the countryside “kind of looks like Utah.”
    “Well the good news is … wait, is being here in Afghanistan good news?” he quipped in second lighthearted post to family and friends. Wallace was on patrol in Babur when his vehicle came under attack.
    Wallace wasn’t a native of Utah. But he followed his sweetheart to the Beehive State, where he eventually was married and completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology. He was currently working toward a master’s degree in business online.
    But Wallace’s heart had always been in the military. He had dreamed since childhood of following in his grandfather’s footsteps and becoming a soldier, Bayless said. It was a fitting career path for a protective big brother who once tailed Bayless during her first date to make sure she was treated well.
    Wallace joined the Army in Salt Lake City. And when he received his captain’s bars, they came from his grandfather, Elton DeWayne Wallace. He later was assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky. Bayless described her brother as a man who put God, family and country first — in that order.
    Bayless said her brother would have been proud to give his life for his country.
    “He always felt the sacrifice for freedom was worth it, no matter the cost,” Bayless said. “He was protecting his family and his country.”
    Wallace leaves behind a wife, Janelle L. Wallace; and four children, Liam, Adara, Kael and Ehlana; who live in Clarksville, Tenn. He also is survived by his parents, Elton DeWayne and Elaine Wallace, who reside in Elkhart, Texas.
    The family plans to bury Wallace in his boyhood town of Big Spring, Texas, where he’ll have a perfect resting place: beside his grandfather.