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"I Want Those 21 Years To Matter": Remembering Army Specialist And Optimist Daniel Lucas Elliott

A photo of Daniel Lucas Elliott, who was was killed on July, 15, 2011 in Basra, Iraq, when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle.
Patti Elliott

Patti Elliott remembers her youngest son Lucas was always “kind of an adrenaline junky.”

He started shooting with a high-powered rifle competition team at 12 years old, and joined the Army Reserves as early as possible, at 17, with his parents' permission.

Lucas volunteered for his first deployment in 2009. He was attached to the 810th Military Police Company and sent to Basra, Iraq.

“Lucas was anxious for that deployment,” Elliott said. “In his words, ‘That’s why I’m a soldier; I want to go fight.’”

She said he always made the best out of every situation. During his year in Iraq he managed to acquire the front grill off a crashed vehicle that he turned into a barbecue grill, she recalled. Lucas became the grillmaster for his fellow soldiers. 

"He would ask me to send him things like bubbles, to blow bubbles," said Elliott. "His love of life and the way he'd try to lighten the mood are the memory I love the most."

He volunteered for deployment again two years later, this time with the 805th Military Police Company. He found himself once again back in Basra, but this time, his mother said he seemed less enthusiastic, thinking more about leaving the military to pursue other dreams.

“Nobody ever comes back from a deployment quite the same as when they left,” she said. “He had seen and experienced some things during his first deployment, that, while he wouldn’t really talk about them, I knew that they had changed him.”

Less than 45 days into his second deployment, he was killed by a roadside bomb on July 15, 2011.

“As a parent that has lost a child in the military, for me the biggest fear is that his service will be forgotten,” said Elliott. “I just want my son, Daniel Lucas Elliott, to be remembered. He died three days prior to his 22nd birthday. Those 21 years he lived were so jam-packed with life. I don’t know what he would have been able to accomplish had he lived on, but I want those 21 years to matter.”

This conversation was produced by North Carolina Public Radio WUNC as part of StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative, and made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. 

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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