Texas soldier killed in Iraq is remembered for his laugh and love of barbecue
Stars and Stripes
There are three things Pfc. Paul Balint Jr. is likely to be remembered for: his devotion to his family, his ability to make people laugh and his barbecue.
He’ll also be remembered as an outstanding soldier whose life ended too early.
Balint, 22, of Willow Park, Texas, was killed Dec. 15 in Ramadi, Iraq, when his unit came under fire during combat operations. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, Germany.
The Schweinfurt community held a memorial ceremony Friday to remember Balint. A similar ceremony also was held Friday in Iraq.
Before deploying to Iraq in August, Balint and the rest of his team would gather for barbecues at Sgt. Paul Able’s place. Able was the team leader.
“He would tell me about barbecues that his mom’s side of the family would throw,” Able said during the memorial service in Iraq, according to copies of the remarks provided to Stars and Stripes.
“He was so excited when I finally got my gas grill, and when he would get to my house, he would grab a beer and some meat and kick me off my grill and go to town.”
“I remember him cooking over a flame for hours, feeding us his masterpieces, or as he would call [it] his ‘junk,’ ” Pfc. Randy Tharp, one of Balint’s squad mates, recalled. “And as long as we kept the beers coming, so did the chicken.”
The barbecues were one of the things that helped remind the young soldier of home, which he often talked about with his buddies.
Another of his squad mates, Pfc. Justin Armenta, remembered meeting Balint for the first time during a training rotation in Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels, Germany.
“He didn’t even know me or even my name,” recalled Armenta. “But seeing that I had a cell phone, he came up and asked if he could use it.”
Armenta gave him a dirty look and asked him why. “I need to call my dad and tell him I’m all right, I’m in Germany, and I love him,” was Balint’s reply. “That was the person he was,” Armenta said.
Able said Balint joined the Army to make a better life for himself, and he had. One of his goals was to be a team leader, like Able.
“And I can tell you all that I believe that he would have done it and been one hell of a team leader,” Able said. “He was proud of what he stood for every time he put on that uniform.”