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Spc Roy Russell Buckley, Portage, IN, April 22, 2003

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Spc Roy Russell Buckley, Portage, IN, April 22, 2003

Posted: 1179007978000
Classification: Death
Surnames: Buckley
The Times Online - His bedroom is a shrine to Uncle Sam and the U.S. Army.

A Declaration of Independence poster hangs over his neatly made bed. An "Army of One" poster is taped next to his door. An American flag serves as his window curtain. White military burial gloves are draped around a crucifix on the wall. His Army certification is posted above the light switch.

This was how U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Roy Russell Buckley left his room when he was deployed to Fort Campbell, Ky., in late January with 160 other local reservists from the 685th Transportation Company.

Buckley, a 1996 Merrillville High School graduate, was killed in a non-combat vehicle accident Wednesday in Baghdad. The family doesn't know exactly how he died. An investigation is under way.

He is the only war fatality from the Hobart reserve unit, but the third from this region in the past month.

"He is just," said older brother Charles Calvin, before quickly catching himself. "He was just 24 years old. That's when life is supposed to start, not end."

On Thursday, at the Portage home Buckley shared with his mother, Janie Espinoza, and stepfather, Phillip Espinoza, his family joined in laughs and tears remembering their "little Bucky," the youngest of five children.

"That's been his nickname since he was a little bitty thing," said Calvin, 28, of Portage.

Buckley was a sports nut growing up in Merrillville. He had an orange belt in karate and could squat incline 950 pounds without breaking a sweat.

About three years ago, he joined the Reserves to help with college, learn a trade, find his way.

Somewhere along the line, the laid off Midwest Steel millworker wrapped his heart around the Army.

"He loved being in the Army," his mother said from her home at Camelot Manor, a mobile home park on the city's south side. "Those white gloves hanging on the wall are from an Army burial he helped with."

Buckley was in line to become a sergeant, waiting for the Army to cross the t's and dot the i's, his family said.

"That's the least they could do now," said his mother, sitting on her son's bed.

Buckley's fiancee, Jenina Bellina, 24, of Chicago, is also a reservist with the Hobart unit. She, too, is serving in Iraq and heard the news before his family did. Buckley proposed to Bellina on Jan. 11.

Espinoza, who found out about her son's death Wednesday afternoon, is asking the Army to arrange for Bellina to escort her son's body back home. She's also asking that Army Reserve Sgt. William Morris, the fiance of Buckley's sister, Catrena Calvin, return home to escort the body, too.

"We don't want strangers escorting Roy home," Espinoza said.

Buckley and Bellina had dreamy plans of eloping to the Bahamas after they returned home, the family said.

"Those dreams are shattered now," said brother Victor Calvin, 33, of Hobart.

'Look down before every step'

Buckley was father to a 6-year-old daughter, Alicia Faith Buckley, who lives in Hobart with her mother.

"He loved that girl more than anything, but he wasn't allowed to see her. It was a shame," Calvin said.

A few weeks ago, Buckley's family mailed a huge care package to him overseas. Amid the dozens of letters and gifts was an updated photo of his daughter.

Buckley's only other photo of her was from a few years ago. It rests on his bedroom nightstand, near a patriotic calendar showing an American flag being folded into a triangle.

Buckley last spoke to his family on Easter Sunday, calling from an Army base. He told them he was hot, hungry, tired and dirty. And he celebrated the day by changing two tires on a military tractor, he joked.

"His voice sounded so calm," his mother said.

Buckley, a huge country music fan, parked his red 1999 Ford F150 pickup truck outside the home with strict orders: "Only mom and dad could drive it." He bought it a month before being deployed.

Before he left, Buckley once hung an American flag across his ceiling, under his light. His mother scolded him, but he pleaded: "Mom, I just want to see it glow," Espinoza said laughing.

Victor Calvin recalled a recent image of his little brother, all 6-foot, 3-inches of him, trying to ride a kid's tiny 50 cc dirt bike -- with training wheels.

"That was the last fun thing he did," Calvin said crying near his brother's bed.

They also remembered Buckley as a curly, blond-haired toddler, a Pentecostal believer who liked to quote Solomon, imitate Bart Simpson and even down a few shots of Jack Daniels on occasion.

"That's Roy all right," smiled brother Charles.

It was Charles who attended the funeral of Greg Sanders "in place of Roy, who would have wanted to be there if he could," Charles said.

In one of the last conversations Buckley had with his mother, he told her about his plans on joining the Army full time for active duty. It's unclear, however, whether his activation papers went through, his family said.

"I just told him to look down before every step. He promised me he would," she said.

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