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Army Sgt. Adam W. Estep, 23, San Jose; Vehicle Hit by Grenade

Times Staff Writer

Last year when Army Sgt. Adam W. Estep first asked his childhood sweetheart Demara Miller to marry him, she declined.

Estep, 23, was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. Miller, 20, was a UC Santa Barbara student who felt she was not ready for a long-distance marriage.

Miller met Estep when she was 13 and he came to visit her older brother, Jesse, in their San Jose neighborhood. To the young girl’s delight, Estep held the door open for her and included her in the boys’ conversations.

When she learned in February that Estep would be deployed to Iraq in mid-March, the thought about marriage resurfaced. “We should get married,” Estep kidded with her.

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“Yeah, we ought to,” she surprised him with her response.

A week later, on Feb. 28, they were married in a ceremony held in the backyard of a friend’s home in San Jose. “After he came back from the Army, I saw so many characteristics,” his wife said. “He had so much potential to be this wonderful man. I came to the realization that I might never have a chance to do that with him if I were to wait.”

But Estep was killed April 29 in Baghdad when his patrol vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to military officials. He was a member of Ft. Hood’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

As of Friday, 763 American servicemen and women had been killed in Iraq. Estep was one of 94 soldiers with ties to California who have died in the conflict.

Estep was born in San Jose, where his family has deep roots.

As a young man, his family said, he showed his inner strength and tenderness when his mother, Ann Estep, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 11. As a teenager, he would push her wheelchair and comfort her when she became bedridden, his mother said.

“Because I don’t have pain from the waist up, he knew that he could lean his whole weight on my chest and not hurt me,” she said. “And that is the greatest feeling, especially when people are so afraid to touch you.”

After graduating from Prospect High School in 2000, Estep joined the military as had his father, Ken Estep, an uncle and a grandfather before him. He hoped to return with G.I. Bill benefits to help him pay for a college education.

From Ft. Hood, he sent his wife letters, flowers and pictures he drew, and visited her in San Jose and at school in Goleta as frequently as he could. One drawing he sent in late January captured one of her most cherished moments with him: his Jan. 18 birthday, when he flew from Texas to see her at school.

Estep also is survived by a brother, Aaron; his grandmother, Dorothy Turney-Stacey of Brentwood; and grandfather, Richard Baker of Oregon.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Saratoga, Calif. Private burial will follow at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, Calif.


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