The next day, Jan. 15, Daily was killed when a roadside bomb detonated beneath his vehicle in Mosul. Three of his comrades died with him.
But his words have become a living appeal for his most treasured Army value — selfless service — as it rips through the Internet and reaches unimagined audiences.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) recently read part of the essay on the Senate floor. It has been posted on the websites of syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and Los Angeles radio talk show hosts Larry Elder and Hugh Hewitt. It has traveled overseas to places as far-flung as Bulgaria, where it is being translated for publication in the local newspapers.
His family has received official letters of condolence from President Bush, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California First Lady Maria Shriver, senators, congressmen, judges. Most touching to them are the hundreds and hundreds of heartfelt notes from ordinary folk, most of them strangers, who read Daily's essay and wanted to share how it inspired them to serve others.
One woman said she had begun volunteering in a children's cancer hospital. Others have donated to Make-A-Wish-Foundation and other charities in Daily's name. Trees have been planted, scholarships planned.
So many people reached out that the family scrapped plans for a 175-person memorial service and moved it to Mariners Church in Irvine instead. More than 1,600 people attended the Jan. 27 service.
The response has filled the Dailys with a strange mix of grief and pain, mingled with gratitude and awe. All of it, his parents muse, affirms Daily's faith in the decency of people and the value of community.
Which doesn't make his loss any easier to bear.
"I'd give it all back a thousandfold," his father says, "just to hug him one more time."