Irvine soldier dies in Iraq
Mark J. Daily, 23, was among four killed by an improvised explosive device in Mosul on Monday.
By GREG HARDESTY
The Orange County Register
IRVINE – A 23-year-old lifelong Irvine resident was killed just three months into his deployment Monday when a bomb ripped through his military vehicle in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, officials announced Wednesday.
Mark J. Daily, a second lieutenant in the Army, recently had been reassigned to a riskier role in combat duty when an improvised explosive device killed him and three other soldiers, relatives and the Department of Defense said Wednesday.
"He sincerely believed in what he was doing and wanted to finish the job and come home," Mark's father, John F. Daily, said in brief comments outside his home Wednesday.
He was too distraught to talk in detail about the Woodbridge High School graduate and the second of his four children – a young man who had been married for only 18 months who became inspired to join the Army after the terrorist attacks in 2001.
In a detailed, eloquent explanation of why he volunteered to go to Iraq, Daily wrote on a Web site that he felt compelled to do his part in trying to better a region plagued by interregional hatred and genocide.
"If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience, then consider me the exception," Daily wrote.
"Don't forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed," Daily wrote. "Don't overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war, but don't cheapen the moral aspects either."
Daily, who enlisted in the Army in 2003 and graduated with honors from the ROTC program at UCLA in 2005, is the latest of more than 30 U.S. military personnel with Orange County ties to have died during the war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Also killed in Monday's explosion were Sgt. Ian C. Anderson, 22, of Prairie Village, Kan.; Sgt. John E. Cooper, 29, of Ewing, Ky.; and Spc. Matthew T. Grimm, 21, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., according to the Department of Defense.
Few details were available about the explosion that killed Daily, who was attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Monday's incident was the deadliest for the post since 11 soldiers with the 507th Maintenance Company were killed in an ambush during the 2003 Iraq invasion, according to the El Paso Times.
Cars spilled out of the driveway of the Daily residence Wednesday as a stream of solemn visitors paid their respects to the family, well-known in the Woodbridge community where they have lived for years.
Mark Daily attended Stonecreek Elementary School and Lakeside Middle School before going to Woodbridge High, according to close family friend Carolyn McInerney, whose three children grew up with the Daily kids.
"He was a remarkable young man – just awesome," said McInerney, struggling to remain composed as a weak wind gently moved the U.S. flag hanging outside the Daily's two-story home.
"They're just a remarkable family," McInerney said. "They are pillars of the community – just the nicest people you'll ever meet."
A close friend of Mark embraced John Daily, who works in defense contracting, as he briefly talked about his son.
Mark's mother, Linda, an audiologist, remained secluded inside.
Mark Daily's wife, Snejana "Janet" Hristova Daily, 21 – a graduate of USC who he met at an Irvine restaurant – also was not available for comment. The two got married on a boat in Newport Harbor in July 2005.
Mark has an older sister, Christine, 25, a teacher in Tustin; a brother, Eric, 20, a junior at UC Berkeley; and a sister, Nicole, 16, a junior at Irvine High School.
After spending two years at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, where he was active in student government, Mark Daily was accepted into the ROTC program at UCLA.
He was named ROTC's outstanding cadet for 2005 and was named a Distinguished Military Graduate, the highest honor awarded by the organization.
Tuesday, Daily was awarded a Purple Heart – the U.S. military decoration awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.
A blue star hanging in the front window of the Daily house signifies that one of their children is serving overseas in the military. It's a tradition begun during World War II by the Blue Star Mothers of America.
John Daily looked at the window Wednesday and broke down.
"Gold etching," he said, referring to the color that the star will be changed to signify that a solider – their son, a husband, brother and friend – has died in combat.
"We will have to add gold etching," John Daily said.
He turned around and slowly walked back inside.
For donation information, call 949-559-7275. For profiles of other Orange County residents who have died in the Iraq war, see "Orange County Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan."
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Copyright 2006 The Orange County Register