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Hunting in the hollows of his native West Virginia helped Spc. Danny B. Daniels II cope with the loss of his mother in a car crash 13 years ago. His skill with a rifle earned him a job as a gunner when his unit left for Iraq.

That’s the job Daniels, 23, of the 630th Military Police Company, was doing July 20 when insurgents aimed small-arms fire at his convoy in Baghdad, then exploded a roadside bomb next to his vehicle.

Three times in the past week — last Friday at his unit’s home base of Bamberg, Germany; Saturday at the 630th MP base camp in Baghdad; and Thursday in his hometown of Varney, W.Va. — friends and family gathered to mourn Daniels.

“His tireless work ethic and good spirit motivated all those around him,” said Capt. Will McKannay, Daniels’ company commander, in comments read at the Bamberg service. “He was, from the very beginning, a role model for the team I wanted to create.”

“Bubby” Daniels grew up in the Appalachians, the coal country where West Virginia meets Kentucky. He enlisted in August 2000, shortly after graduating from Burch High School.

Six months later, he joined the 630th MP Company’s 1st Platoon in Bamberg. Earning an “expert” rating on his weapons system, he deployed with the unit to Bad Aibling, Germany — a trip on which his platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Michael Curry, said Daniels figured out how to play compact discs over his vehicle’s radio.

“He became the DJ for the trip down and back,” Curry recalled at last week’s memorial service in Bamberg. “[Daniels] could take a normal boring day and make it interesting.”

In 2002, Daniels served with his unit for six months in Kosovo and deployed with it to Iraq in April. He was the first member of his unit killed in Iraq, and the fifth soldier from Bamberg.

Earlier this week, Daniels’ family cleared and repaired the steep, winding lane to the cemetery where he was to be buried after a bad thunderstorm toppled trees and damaged the road, according to his hometown newspaper, the Williamson Daily News. His grave had already been dug and a tent erected for the service.

“He was a good patriot and a good son,” his father, Danny B. Daniels Sr., told the paper. “I was proud of him. I want everybody to remember him. He died for his country. He died doing what he wanted to do.”

Daniels is survived by his wife, Rilana; his father; his stepmother, Jenny; one brother; two sisters; and three grandparents.

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