Broward County

Family and friends honor a fallen soldier, a hero and a leader

His helmet, dog tags and boots rested on the doorstep.

A framed photograph of the hero in uniform greeted visitors in the hallway.

And at the front of the Dania Beach church, dozens of American flags and red, white and blue flowers flanked a painting of a smiling Sgt. 1st Class Michael Curry.

Family, friends and fellow soldiers paid tribute on Saturday to the veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, who grew up in Dania Beach and died in Afghanistan July 23 when a roadside bomb exploded. The husband and father of two was 37.

Childhood friends shared stories about Curry's troubles on the Little League field, while Army buddies spoke of his dedication and leadership on the battlefield.

"Mike Curry epitomized the man I want my son to be," said Sgt. 1st First Class LA Monta Caldwell. "He taught us how to raise our children, honor our wives and train warriors."

Curry was part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, where he lived with his wife, Lucia, and their sons, Taylor, 12, and Kevin, 9. Curry was buried in Italy late last month. Curry's family also wanted to celebrate his life closer to home.

They gathered at his aunt's home in Dania Beach early Saturday to remember their fallen brother, grandson, uncle, nephew and cousin.

Just before leaving for Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, they stood in a circle, held hands and prayed.

Dennis Curry Jr., who spent 30 years in the Army, beamed with pride over his nephew's accomplishments.

The two would share stories about their military experiences. Often Curry would turn to his uncle -- a retired sergeant-major -- for advice.

"He did what he enjoyed and he was good at," said Dennis Curry Jr., 63. "It's good to die for something rather than dying without a purpose in life."

Michael Curry enlisted in 1987 after graduating from Hollywood Hills High.

He served in the Persian Gulf War and in the Iraq War. In March 2003, he was among a select group of paratroopers to land in Iraq when the U.S.-led invasion started.

A 20-year veteran, Curry's life was cut short in the Sarobi District of Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Three others soldiers also died.

Tyrone Cornileus, served in the Army with Curry, his cousin, for nine years. Cornileus said he never worried about Curry's safety.

"I never had concerns of Mike in the battlefield because he was trained well," he said. "He was at the top of his game. But you can't do anything about a roadside bomb. You're defenseless."

Curry's oldest sister, Keisha Robinson, wept as she stood before a painting of the fallen soldier. Then, like the rest of the family, she somberly placed a single red rose in a nearby basket.

The congregation, including dozens of war veterans and enlisted soldiers, also paid tribute to Curry by singing patriotic songs, including The Star Spangled Banner, Battle Hymn of the Republic and God Bless America.

Just steps outside the church, a bugler played taps and the honor guard team performed a rifle salute, as a flag at half-staff waved underneath the bright sky.

In true Army tradition, Curry's name was called out in a final roll call.

"Sgt. 1st First Class Michael Curry," his cousin Cornileus shouted.

Silence.

Cornileus repeated the call.

No answer.

"Sir, he is no longer with us."

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