On the day he enlisted in the Army, Clay Farr volunteered to be a cavalry scout.
But his father urged him to "get a job in the back," where his chances for survival would be greater.
"He told me, 'I'm going to be in the action, Dad. I'm getting on the front line,' " Patrick Farr said.
Even as a youngster, Clay Farr seemed destined for the military life, his father said. In school, he liked to color everything in camouflage patterns.
"Clay was all Army from the time he was small," his father said, recalling a photograph of his then-4-year-old son wearing a camouflage ball cap at an air show. "That's when the Army got him."
The 21-year-old Bakersfield native enlisted after graduating from Centennial High School in 2003 and asked to go to Iraq.
On Feb. 26, Farr was one of two soldiers killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee while they were on patrol in Baghdad. Also killed was Army Spc. Joshua U. Humble, 21, of Appleton, Maine. Both were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, N.Y.
Joining the Army was part of Farr's bigger plan: After the war, he was going to marry his high-school sweetheart and become a Kern County sheriff's deputy, his parents said.
In high school, Farr rode around Bakersfield in boots and camouflage dungarees as he and his friends scouted areas such as the almond orchard across from their high school to play paintball or jump their BMX bikes, said one of his best friends, Jared Russell, 20.
Farr also joined the Explorer Scouts and rode along with sheriff's deputies nearly every weekend, preferring to patrol the city's east side because "that's where the action is," Russell said.
After graduation, he worked as a security guard at a hospital and shopping mall.
On the day before boot camp, Farr reunited with his mother, Carrol Alderete. He insisted that she meet his fiancee, Sara Ransom, 16.
Three weeks later, Sara was killed in a car accident.
"Clay was totally in love," Alderete said. "It was just like a fairy tale."
Farr returned home to bury his fiancee but didn't stay. He turned down the Army's offer to take a few months off before returning to boot camp. He told his mother, "It was part of our plan, and I'm just going to stick with it," she said.
In an April 2004 letter, Farr promised Alderete that he would be careful. "Mom, you have a no-fear son, but I know when I've gone too far, and I'll stop before I get hurt," he wrote.
His father said he had a bad feeling. His son's Humvee had been hit by roadside bombs twice in two weeks. Farr was not injured the first time, but was hospitalized with a concussion a week later, on Feb. 19, his 21st birthday.
Despite those close calls, Farr told his father that he had decided to reenlist.
"He said, 'Well, my job's not done here, Dad, and I can't leave because if we don't finish this thing over here....' He guaranteed me that those insurgents would be in our backyards,' " Patrick Farr said.
If Clay Farr was not scared for his safety, his father was. "After the second bomb hit, I told my wife something's wrong," Patrick Farr recalled. "I said we need to prepare ourselves, something is about to happen."
A week later, his son was killed. Alderete said she has been told since her son's death that he usually drove the Humvee but was not behind the wheel Feb. 26 because of his head injury. The driver survived, she said.
Farr was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He was buried March 14 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Next to Sara's grave in Bakersfield, Farr's father also buried a coffin filled with stuffed animals, clothes, photographs and other mementos from friends and family.
"I know he's in heaven," Alderete said. "I know he's with Sara."
In addition to his parents, Farr is survived by a brother, Chad; his stepmother, Silver Farr; his stepfather, Anthony Alderete; and two stepsisters, Amanda Cope and Taylor Alderete.