10:23 p.m. EDT, September 2, 2011
Jr. loved working on his car, family said, and he had a passion for sports.
But just three years into his service, he'd already decided that his future
was in the military.
"He was going to make his career in
said his aunt and guardian, Rhonda Williams of Deltona.
That career was cut short Wednesday in
Wardak province. James was killed when his unit was attacked by insurgents
with an improvised explosive device, defense officials said.
Reached Friday night at her home, Williams described her nephew as a
generous and kind man with a sense of humor, who loved to play basketball
with his much taller cousins.
"You couldn't tell him that he wasn't the big dog of the group," Williams
said. When he wasn't driving to the hoop, he was working on his car — "the
Dodge Magnum with the big wheels," Williams said.
She said James ran track and played basketball and football while a student
Pine Ridge High School
in Deltona. After graduation, she said, he set his sights on the service.
Officials said James joined the Army in June 2008. He was a driver with the
2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain
Division based at Fort Polk, La.
His unit deployed to Afghanistan in October in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom, officials said.
His awards and decorations include a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, an Army
Achievement Medal and an Army Good Conduct Medal, among others.
He leaves behind his aunt and uncle, his cousins and six siblings. His older
brother Michael, Williams said, is also serving in the Army in Afghanistan.
The news of James' death comes just a day after officials reported that U.S.
Army Pfc. Alberto L. Obod Jr. of Orlando had been killed last weekend in a
vehicle rollover in Kandahar.
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