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Army Sgt. Kyle Colnot, 23, San Dimas; Among 4 Killed in Roadside Blast

May 21, 2006|Evelyn Larrubia | Times Staff Writer

In classic Southern California style, Kyle Colnot loved heavy-metal rock music and fast cars, perhaps to extremes. He carried a picture of his Camaro in his wallet and had the lyrics of a Pantera song tattooed on his back.

Bored with school, relatives said the San Dimas man got his general equivalency diploma at age 16 and found himself too young for college or a job. Instead, he got his parents' permission to join the Army, enlisting at 17. After a tour in Afghanistan, relatives said he re-enlisted in November, knowing he would be sent to Iraq.

Colnot was among four soldiers killed during a military operation south of Baghdad on April 22 when mines detonated near the Humvee they were riding in, setting it on fire. He was 23.

Colnot was born in Texas, but grew up in Arcadia, playing soccer and studying taekwondo.

He taught himself to play his father's guitar, beginning at age 11. His relatives said he excelled at all three.

"Kyle just went for whatever he did full-speed," said his father, Jack Colnot of San Antonio.

Although he was disinterested in school, relatives said Colnot was exceptionally intelligent, scoring above 150 on an IQ test administered by the Army.

After boot camp, Colnot was sent to Hawaii. His father remembers him saying: "People think it's a great place because you're in Hawaii. Dad, it's not. Because everything's either uphill or downhill."

The grandson of a World War II Army pilot, Colnot was a dedicated soldier who believed in the missions in the Middle East, relatives said.

When he was home on leave once, a television news magazine was airing interviews of National Guardsmen who were questioning the mission. "He said: Dad, It's not like that," his father recalled. "We believe why we're there."

In e-mails and on the phone, he would chat about searching tunnels and handing out coloring books to children. "He told one of his brothers that maybe you couldn't win all the adults, but if you worked with the children you could change minds," his father said. "He believed 110% in what he was doing. That's why we're all so proud of him."

On his time off in the desert, Colnot would pull out an acoustic guitar and play. He sent his relatives a photo of him jamming with other enlisted men in a cave. "The big joke in his platoon was that Kyle couldn't even make it through deployment without his guitar," said his half sister, Kelly Luisi.

But he also was the kind of person who wore his heart on his sleeve -- or, perhaps more appropriately, on his chest. After his sister Korra Jean Colnot was killed in a car accident four years ago, he had her full name tattooed across his chest.

Classmates of his nephews at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad wrote letters to Colnot while he was overseas. Luisi said he replied to each student, writing 60 letters in all. "These kids were like: Whoa, we got a letter from a soldier!" she said.

The Army sent Colnot to Iraq in November.

During a visit home in February, Luisi said she found him quieter than usual. He wouldn't say much about his mission and brought back his dress uniform. He told her to make sure he was buried in it if anything should happen. He told his friends, "If I don't come home, have a raging party for me," Luisi said.

The pastor who had baptized Colnot more than two decades ago led his funeral services May 6 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Arcadia. He was buried with military honors at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Covina.

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