AYDEN, NC, USA U.S. Army SGT, 351ST MILITARY POLICE COMPANY (16TH MP BDE), OCALA, FL 34471 BIAP, IRAQ 05/09/2004
Family and friends of a soldier who was killed in Iraq on Mother’s Day said the man loved adventure and was a solid guy. Stella Murray said her son, Sergeant Rodney Murray, called her from Iraq on May 9 and sounded upbeat.
Murray, 28, was killed that night when his Humvee collided with a Bradley Fighting Vehicle between Baghdad and Scania, south of the city, the Department of Defense said. He served in the Army Reserve’s 351st Military Police Company based in Ocala, Fla.
Murray’s mother said he was ejected in the collision and died of a broken neck.
“Rodney touched a lot of lives, all for the better,” Stella Murray said. “The world lost a lot.”
Murray grew up in Hopkins, N.C., in a white double-wide with blue shutters. He attended East Wake High School, where he played football and graduated in 1994.
Murray made the varsity his junior and senior year, said former East Wake football coach Robin “Turk” Dedrick. He remembered Murray for his dedication.
“He was first class all the way,” Dedrick said. “He was dependable, he didn’t miss practice and was a solid guy. He was that way in school, too.”
Murray was small, but the lineman was always willing to fill in wherever his team needed him, Dedrick said. Stella Murray said her son thought enlisting would be good for him.
“He just decided to do this just to try to further himself,” she said. “He loved adventure, too.”
Murray graduated from East Carolina University in December 2002 with a double major in English and physical education. He wanted to teach. Six weeks later, on Feb. 12, he started work as a teacher of history and English at Ayden-Grifton High School in Ayden, N.C. He lived with his wife of three years, Amanda.
On the same day he started work, he got notice that he would be deployed. He left on Valentine’s Day.
Mary E. Hopkins, of Zebulon, used to rent to the Murray family. Hopkins and her husband used to grow tobacco, and Rodney Murray would help during the harvest.
“He was a good worker,” she said, “a good Christian boy.”
The family now rents a trailer lot from Faye Pearce. They’ve lived on the same road since before Rodney Murray was born. Pearce said Rodney Murray was handsome and loved his country. “He was willing to go there and fight,” she said. “He was never mischievous like some of these young people are, and he had his mind focused on where he was going.”
Murray gave his mother a dogwood tree two years ago. She planted it in her front yard and it grew and blossomed white last year, then dappled with pink this year.
When Rodney A. Murray talked to his wife Sunday, his thoughts were of the three children they wanted to have together. “His last words to me were, ‘Happy future Mother’s Day,’ because we were looking forward to starting a family,” his 25-year-old wife, Amanda, said.