Mike Wilson recalls that, even when he was a child, it was obvious what Troy Leon Miranda wanted to be when he grew up.
"He wanted to be a soldier," Wilson said at his cousin's memorial service Saturday in the Wickes High School auditorium. "From the pictures you see of Leon in his uniform, there was no question that he was meant to be a soldier."
Miranda, 44, signed up with the Army Reserve in 1984.
On May 20, by then a staff sergeant with the 39th Infantry Brigade, he was killed as he and other soldiers patrolled on foot in Baghdad. Three others were injured in the grenade attack. He was the ninth soldier from Arkansas killed in the line of duty in Iraq.
Leon McCleskey, who served with Miranda in the Arkansas National Guard, recalled the words on a plaque dedicated to Miranda on Friday.
"The plaque read, 'Brother, Son, Friend, Hero,'" McCleskey said. "Leon was a brother to some, and a friend to many; he was a hero because of his willingness to do his duty."
Hundreds of friends, relatives and well-wishers attended the memorial service.
As Maj. Gen. Don Morrow, adjutant general of the Arkansas Guard, prepared to give the Miranda family their son's Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Arkansas Distinguished Service Medal, half of the audience rose to its feet.
They were members of the Army, Air Force, State Police, the Wickes Chapter of the VFW and the Hot Springs Chapter 1 of the Vietnam Veterans Organization. They all stood at attention as Morrow read the citation for each award.
"He was an outstanding young man and soldier," Morrow said. "One can pay him no higher tribute than call him a soldier. He did not want to give his life for freedom, but he knew the price of freedom sometimes calls for it and was willing to pay it."
Wilson said his cousin's death is not what should be remembered.
"It was his life that we should remember," he said. "Each of us seeks in his or her own way how to find in each day that which we need to do to accomplish God's plan. The freedom to praise God was a freedom Leon lived and died for."
Miranda was buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery three miles west of Wickes.