When Stephen C. Benish went to Iraq, his mentors at a local fire department took up a collection to ship him necessities such as toilet paper, soap, shampoo _ and cigars.
"Being out in the field and not having any luxuries was tough," said Cranford, N.J., Fire Chief Leonard Dolan. "He was looking forward to getting out and coming back and being able to tell us about all of his adventures."
Benish, 20, of Clark, N.J., died Nov. 28 in hostile fire while on a foot patrol. He was stationed at Camp Howze, Korea.
Benish was inspired to join the service by his mentors in the fire department after the Sept. 11 attacks, his mother said. In high school, the 6-foot-7 Benish wrestled and studied electrical engineering through a county program.
His senior-year English teacher, Kurt Epps, said Benish "always had a smile on his face and he never let things get him down for too long."
He is survived by his parents, Candy and Stephen J. Benish.
Published in The Washington Post on Jan. 28, 2005.