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Roadside bomb kills DL soldier

Troy Linden was only 22 when he died Saturday from an exploding roadside bomb in Iraq.

He packed a lot of living into those years, and he had dreams of college, marriage and family after he came home from Iraq for good.

Troy grew up on a farmstead in a lightly wooded area, spotted with pastures and fields, off Rock-Rice Road in central Becker County. His parents still live there, as they have since 1993.

As a young teen, he and his older brother, Ryan, let their mechanical sides loose -- building go-carts, ripping apart snowmobiles, or tearing apart and putting back together a 1971 Camaro they bought together, according to their sister, Sarah Nelson, the eldest sibling.

At Detroit Lakes High School, where he graduated in 2002, Troy loved music and drama. He acted in several school plays -- his biggest role was in "Dracula" -- and he sang in all-state choir.

"He was involved in pretty much anything that (drama and music teachers) Kathy Larson and Mark Everson did," Sarah said.

He also wrestled up through his sophomore year of high school.

"When he won his first match, I was whooping and hollering and carrying on," his mother, MerryLee, said with a smile. "He said 'Mom, it was just a seventh-grader.'"

After high school he moved west to Billings, Mont., to experience life away from Becker County and to be closer to his sister and her children -- Wyatt, now 8, and Garett, 3. His niece, Rylee, 2, came along later.

"He's a great uncle, he was part of my kids' life in Billings," Sarah said. "He was just a good old country boy -- he liked a simple kind of life and simple kind of things.

"He wanted to come home, go to college and find a 'hot rockin' country girl' to settle down with -- his words on his profile on MySpace," she added.

With an eye towards paying for college, Troy joined the Army in October 2003 and was sent to Iraq in October 2005.

He was in the 54th Engineer's Battalion, which is attached to the 130th Engineer's Battalion, which is a part of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, Sarah said.

"He was an engineer -- that's what Troy's job was over there -- building bridges, clearing roads, clearing bombs... they'd find roadside bombs and dispose of them properly," Sarah said.

He was traveling in the lead vehicle in a convoy when insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in Anbar Province, killing Troy and two others and sending the other two soldiers in the vehicle to a critical care unit in Germany, Sarah said.

The military is investigating, as it does with all such attacks, and will provide more information to the family later, Sarah said.

Troy would have been through with his tour of duty in Iraq in October or November, and then stationed in Germany until next year, when he would have come home.

He came home on leave in April, and greeted his family and friends at an open house in Detroit Lakes. Going back to Iraq after that was hard for him, knowing what he was going back to, his mother said.

Troy had come back on leave a few times before that, prior to going to Iraq, and he always enjoyed himself, but was also glad to get back to the comradeship and discipline of military life, Sarah said.

It's hard to force yourself to get up at 5 a.m. and exercise, and that can be necessary at home. After all, Troy's favorite food - like everyone in the family -- was his mother's lasagna.

Sarah said he liked country and alternative music like that of Jack Johnson, though he also developed a liking for European "electronica" music while in the Army in Germany. He owned electric and acoustic guitars and was teaching himself to play.

Maybe the music was in his genes -- his grandfather, Bud McLeod, played in the Country Outlaws band for 25 or 30 years, Sarah said.

His grandfather was a Korean War veteran, and Troy was able to come home on leave to see him in 2004, a year before Bud died, although that meant Troy was not allowed to come home for the funeral.

Troy's mother, MerryLee, said her father almost never talked about his war experiences. But after Troy joined the Army and was training for Iraq, they had long, private conversations about it.

The family believes grandfather and grandson are together now.

Funeral arrangements are pending, but Troy's family said they wouldn't be finalized until his body is brought to a funeral home in Detroit Lakes.

Until then, family and friends are invited to come out and visit at the farmstead, Sarah said.

"It's been hard on the whole family, and it makes us feel comfortable (to have company)," Sarah said. "We don't want anyone at home suffering by themselves."