Seattle Times August 12, 2006
Sgt. Tracy Melvin, 31, aspired to be in battle
By Tan Vinh
Seattle Times staff reporter
Even as a teenager in Seattle, Tracy Melvin dreamed of being a soldier. Not the kind who marched and twirled rifles at funerals and veteran ceremonies but an infantryman, a soldier who leads troops on the battlefield when lives are at stake.
On Sunday, while commanding an armored Humvee, Staff Sergeant Melvin was killed by a roadside bomb during a battle in Ramadi, Iraq, family members said.
Sgt. Melvin, who was serving his second tour in Iraq, was 31.
"He was shy, but he always wanted to go into the military," his former wife, Sheri Washington, said during a phone interview from San Antonio. "He was realizing his dream, enjoying what he did."
Sgt. Melvin served in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, first Armored Division in Baumholder, Germany.
Born on May 9, 1975, Sgt. Melvin, a Dallas Cowboys fan, played football at Chief Sealth High School in 1992 before transferring to Harry S. Truman High School in Federal Way to be with Washington, his sweetheart, she said.
Even then, he was a history buff, watching the History Channel and reading military books while other teens hung out at shopping malls and in arcades.
"Growing up, we were set up on a blind date, and I don't think he said more than four words," Washington recalled.
But when it came to military history, he could recite famous battles and throw out names of generals from World War II and the Vietnam War.
As a high-school senior, he even helped his history teacher lecture on the Vietnam War.
"He brought his own reference material," said Washington, who was a student in that class. "I was proud of him."
He graduated from high school in 1995. The couple married after he returned from basic training. He persuaded her to enlist, and the two were based in Virginia — he at Fort Myer, she at nearby Fort Belvoir.
Away from home for the first time, the young couple leaned on each other.
Sgt. Melvin confided that he didn't join the Army to perform at ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington said. He wanted to be on the battlefield, in the middle of the action. He wanted to make a difference.
The couple transferred to Fort Lewis in 1999, where Sgt. Melvin became an infantry soldier. He served his first tour in Iraq in 2003, his family said.
Sgt. Melvin and Washington divorced that same year, and Sgt. Melvin later remarried.
One of Sgt. Melvin's in-laws, Kittie Vandeway of Yuma, Ariz., recalled how patriotic the sergeant felt as an infantryman.
Sgt. Melvin is survived by his wife, Mary Melvin of Phoenix; father, Bill Swindle; mother, Janice Swindle; brothers Mike Swindle and Michael Melvin and sisters Kimberly Kowis and Maxine Stokosa, all from Seattle.
Sgt. Melvin's family has not finalized a time for his funeral, but it is scheduled to be held Friday at Yarrington's White Center Funeral Chapel, 10708 16th Ave. S.W. Sgt. Melvin will be buried in the Tahoma National Cemetery.
For information on the time of the service, call the funeral home at 206-242-2771.
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org.