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Army Reserve Sgt. Cheyenne C. Willey, 36, Fremont; Killed by Roadside Bomb in Iraq
Army Reserve Sgt. Cheyenne C. Willey and his younger sister, Stacy, grew up eating their grandmother's apple pie, the recipe for which was never set down in writing in her lifetime.
On Willey's next leave from the military, the two planned to have a bake-off to see who could come closest to duplicating it. Stacy Willey warned her brother that she had him beat. Through trial and error, she thought she had mastered the crust.
He never got to try it.
The 36-year-old from Fremont, Calif., was one of two soldiers killed Dec. 23 when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee in Baghdad.
Born on the Fourth of July in Red Wing, Minn., and named after the helicopters his father became familiar with as a soldier in the Vietnam War, he had a rare sense of duty and patriotism, even in his youth, his sister said.
"He always wanted to be a man of service," said Stacy Willey, who lives about an hour south of Fremont near Santa Cruz.
After their parents split up, he and Stacy, now 33, were reared by their mother in Macomb, Ill.
They moved to California when Willey was about 18.
Though he originally wanted to be a police officer like two of his uncles, many of his relatives were in the Army National Guard. Willey ended up enlisting in the Army.
From 1995 to 1999, he served with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Ft. Bragg, N.C., doing a tour in the Persian Gulf.
Afterward, returning to live in Fremont, he attended classes at Ohlone College and DeVry University, supporting himself by working in construction and as a personal trainer.
Physical discipline and fitness was a lifelong tonic for him, his sister said.
Willey studied martial arts, hiked and was an avid biker, belonging to the Fremont Freewheelers Bicycle Club.
The stability of a civilian career, perhaps in computers, appealed to him, but after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his sister said, the pull of military service became almost irresistible.
"He didn't want something like that to happen again," she said.
Willey reenlisted in the Army in June 2004 and was deployed to Iraq soon after with the Army Reserve's 351st Civil Affairs Command, based in Mountain View, Calif.
Family members spoke to him several times a week by phone or through instant messaging on the Internet.
He was devoted to his work -- taking construction bids from contractors to rebuild schools, hospitals and houses -- and said it had driven home the hardships everyday Iraqis endure.
"He was very respectful of what the people had gone through," his sister said.
The last time Willey contacted his sister was Dec. 21. As usual, he wanted to know about his two nieces -- Stacy's daughters -- asking about the older one's grades and how the younger one was progressing with her walking.
Willey was with his sister in the delivery room when she gave birth to her younger daughter, buoying her spirits with characteristic humor.
"He kept saying, 'It's OK, I'm not looking,' " she said, laughing at the memory. "But he was there for me the whole time."
In addition to his sister, Willey is survived by his mother, Patsy Miller, and stepfather, Charles Miller, both of Fremont.
He has been recommended for several posthumous awards, among them the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.