Region 8 Soldier Killed in Iraq

January 10, 2007--Posted at 6:25 p.m. CST

WEST MEMPHIS, AR--On the day that President Bush announces plans to send more troops to Iraq, family members say a soldier from West Memphis has been killed in Iraq.

Specialist Raymond "Neal" Mitchell III was killed during shooting Saturday in Baghdad. The 21-year-old Mitchell was a 2004 graduate of West Memphis Christian School.

He joined the Army in 2005, after attending ASU for a year.

Mitchell was patrolling the streets of Baghdad Saturday when he was shot and killed.

Mitchell visited West Memphis Christian back in December when he was on leave. His death is hitting home for students and teachers who are finding it hard to believe that the man they saw just weeks ago is now gone.

"It was just good talking to him and getting to know about what he did how he did it and stuff I never really thought he would be gone," said Bradley Sechrest, high school friend of Mitchell.

Bradley Sechrest saw the upperclassman Specialist Neal Mitchell as a hero. The two were teammates at West Memphis Christian. Sechrest believes the same qualities that made Mitchell a great baseball player lead to his success as a point man in the Army.

"He went all out. He would do everything he could to do his best. He was a good player and a good athlete," said Sechrest.

Specialist Mitchell moved from Colorado his junior year. While he only attended West Memphis Christian for a year and a half he left a last legacy on students and teachers.

"He had a really good heart and I think people saw that in him," said West Memphis Christian teacher Lynnette Bankston.

Bankston is a guidance counselor at the school. She has corresponded with Mitchell since he deployed for Iraq and says Mitchell was proud of the work he doing overseas.

"I would ask him the hard questions about being in war and being and an infantryman and he said, it's my job that's what I do," said Bankston.

Bankston says she will cherish the time she spent with Mitchell. When Mitchell returned to West Memphis in December, she ended their last visit together like she always did.

"Always told him you remember I am so proud of you, be careful and I love you and I feel grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of his life," said Bankston.

Specialist Neal Mitchell would have turned 22 later this month. While serving in Iraq he earned a Combat Infantryman's Medal and posthumously earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. His funeral is scheduled for Monday in Smyrna, Tennessee.