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Military deaths : Army Staff Sgt. Cody R. Legg, 23,
Escondido

Soldier killed in Iraq was an 'Army guy' even as a boy

June 29, 2008|Joanna Lin | Times Staff Writer

When it came time to play, Cody Legg had only one game: army.

His mother, Bunnie Jacquay, recalled: "All the kids in the neighborhood would say, 'What do you want to do, Cody?' He'd say, 'Let's play army!' And they'd say, 'Again?' "

Legg was born in Escondido and spent his childhood climbing trees, playing flashlight tag and planning missions. Camouflage and face paint became a uniform he rarely took off. It was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army in his senior year at San Pasqual High School in Escondido.

"Literally, you could find him and walk by him, and he was always in that mode: wanting to be an Army guy," said his father, Dave Legg.

But in April, while home on leave from his second tour in Iraq, Cody Legg spoke hopefully of his post-service plans: to become a firefighter or emergency medical technician, buy a house and start a future with his girlfriend.

On June 4, barely two months later, Army Staff Sgt. Cody Legg, 23, died of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked in Sharqat, about 50 miles from Mosul, Iraq, by forces using small-arms fire and hand grenades.

Legg had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Ft. Drum, N.Y. He was one of three soldiers killed in the attack.

Legg had been trying to save two soldiers in his unit. Jacquay recounted how Army officials described Legg's efforts to her: "He yelled, 'Man down! Man down! I'm going in,' and just took off to try to get them out of harm's way."

Legg's mother remembers him as someone who often stood up for others. Ever since he was a child, Legg showed that he was "always looking out for the little guy," Jacquay said.

In high school he participated in several informal training sessions for students planning to enlist. Even then, said longtime friend Jason Dassow, Legg looked after the group.

"Even in a [pre-enlistment] exercise, Cody still made sure everyone in our unit stayed together, taking care of his soldiers just like a great person, leader and soldier does," Dassow, a petty officer second class and gunner's mate in the Navy, wrote in an e-mail.

Another childhood friend, Chris Lefever, said, "He's the best friend a guy could have: always looking out for you, always there if you needed him."

Wherever Legg went -- at home in Escondido, Ft. Drum, on duty in Iraq -- happiness followed, his friends and family said.

"His joy of life, his smile, could light up a room," Jacquay said. "He just had a zest for life that was contagious."

Dave Legg said his son could always make light of difficult circumstances, such as the weather in Iraq.

"He'd tell me how wonderful the weather was -- about 120, dust blowing, couldn't see 5 feet in front of him," he said. "He'd joke that he wasn't going to purchase any land there."

Aside from these jokes, he didn't talk much about his war experiences, his parents said.

Jacquay said that although he didn't volunteer information, Cody Legg would answer questions in a way that grounded and humbled friends and family at home.

"I received mothers' phone calls saying, 'Thank you so much. Now my child doesn't gripe that it's too hot,' " she said. "It seemed to broaden everybody's world a little bit."

Jacquay said her son loved simple pleasures.

"The first thing he said when he came home in April on leave was, 'I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a hot shower,' " she said, laughing. "He was a real down-to-earth guy."

Legg was buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. In addition to his parents, he is survived by a large extended family: two half-brothers, D.C. and Derek Legg; two stepbrothers; a stepfather; and a stepmother.

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joanna.lin@latimes.com

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