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Utahn's longtime dream of service ends after three months in Iraq
ROY - Dan Dolan's parents and friends had sensed a change in the way the 19-year-old soldier felt about life in the military, a life he had dreamed about for years.
He was not disillusioned. He did not regret that he enlisted in the Army just months after graduating from northern Utah's Roy High School last year.
But Pfc. Dolan's boyish enthusiasm had been replaced by something else. He had come to the awful realization that serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq is dangerous.
On Sunday, just a month after arriving in Baghdad, Dolan's fears came true.
He and three others were shot and killed while trying to tip up their armored personnel carrier after a roadside bomb had knocked it on its side, his mother, Fay Dolan, said Tuesday.
Her son was driving the M1126 Stryker Vehicle, she added.
The Defense Department confirmed Dolan's death Tuesday evening. He was assigned to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team from the 2nd Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis in Washington state.
"Half the team survived," Fay Dolan said.
Dolan becomes the fourth Utahn to die in Iraq this year. The total U.S. military fatalities confirmed by the Pentagon now stand at 2,631 since the war began.
Last weekend marked the only one since Dolan shipped out from Fort Lewis in late June that he had not called his parents and 16-year-old sister, Michelle.
He spent a month in Kuwait, acclimating to the desert climate.
"He would call to say, 'Mom, I love you. I'm OK.' He was just that way. He called every chance he got," Fay Dolan said.
Dolan had enlisted despite his parents' reservations.
"I was reluctant, but I supported him fully," said Tim Dolan, Dan's father, who is the deputy flight test chief for the C-130 aircraft at Hill Air Force Base, a civilian position.
"I never wanted him to go. Nobody ever does," Fay Dolan added.
However, she did not try to persuade her son against the Army.
"I knew my son, and I knew when he makes a decision, he stands by it. He thought it was important to serve his country."
Dolan, his parents said, never was halfhearted, nor was he short on imagination.
As a 6-year-old, he invented his own airplane - a three-way chaise lounge perched in his wagon, with the two extensions serving as wings. Soon all the neighbor kids were mimicking the contraption.
"Everyone had trashed lawn chairs," Fay Dolan recalled.
He played baseball and a year of football at Roy's Sand Ridge Junior High, but hockey, which he began playing as a sixth-grader, became his passion.
During high school, Dolan went to the hockey rink almost every day, playing on competitive teams and for Roy High's club team.
He also loved snowboarding and rollerblading and, for about five years, kept up with a paper route for Ogden's daily newspaper.
"He did everything full out," his mother said.
Dolan's principal at Roy High, Lee Dickemore, remembered him as "just a grand kid." He earned good grades and never had to be disciplined.
"He was just fun to be around," Dickemore said.
Dolan took most of Kenny Hokanson's marketing classes at Roy High - including the one that runs the school store. He also joined the marketing club, Hokanson said.
Dolan visited his former teacher last spring after basic training. "He thought it was a good deal, a good thing. He was excited to serve. It gave him some focus," Hokanson said.
Candace Sallade, a close friend who grew up across the street, said Dolan looked the part of a "macho" guy, but his desire to help others led him to enlist.
"He had the softest heart and would do anything for anybody. That's all he wanted to do - fight for someone else."
In recent months, the two had talked about his choice and the implications. The infantry, he realized, was especially vulnerable, she said.
"He said, 'I'm excited but I'm scared because I see how dangerous it is,' '' Sallade said. "He was such a good guy. It just isn't fair. It's just not right."