Barrie native, 28, and `immensely strong' son killed
in roadside blast northeast of Baghdad
When Gale Poindexter's Canadian-born
son joined the U.S. Army six years ago, it was
peacetime – four months before 9/11.
She remembers feeling great pride at
the time and a mother's relief that her 6-foot-6
son, Joel Lewis, had found a calling that was a good
fit for his strong and active disposition.
But when the United States
subsequently went to war with Iraq, Poindexter tried
to suppress the thought that this could be bad news
for her son.
Her worst fears were realized when
she learned that Joel was killed on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Barrie native was
among six soldiers who died in a roadside bomb blast
in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.
"Everyone is still reeling from it
here. We're very raw," Poindexter said in a
telephone interview from her home in Tulsa, Okla.
The family moved to the U.S. from
Barrie in 1993, when Joel was 15. Poindexter had
split from her husband and was looking for work. At
the time, there were few nursing jobs open in
Ontario but a Florida nursing home was hiring.
Joel often returned to Ontario to
visit relatives and always considered Barrie to be
home base, said his father, Larry Lewis.
As a youngster, he attended Shanty
Bay and Maple Grove public schools. He delivered the
Barrie Examiner on his bike.
The young man even moved back to
Barrie formore than three years before joining the
Lewis, who has since moved from
Barrie to the Parry Sound area, described his son as
extremely athletic, liking skydiving, skiing, scuba
diving and hockey.
He said Joel had misgivings about
going to Iraq.
"My son did not agree with going
into Iraq in the first place. But as a soldier in
the military, he did what he was told. He was big on
honour," Lewis explained.
"He also felt you couldn't pull out
and leave it in a mess, either. He felt sorry for
the people in Iraq and saw the need to restore law
and order," Lewis continued.
Joel was not an American citizen and
was given a hard time by his colleagues because of
Canada's decision not to send troops to Iraq, Lewis
"He got major flak. He was
ostracized by others in the military," Lewis said,
adding it was one reason that it wasn't until
February that Joel was deployed.
Lewis said his son told of seeing
some horrible things in the war.
"He saw guys in his unit burned
Another incident that particularly
bothered him was seeing a fellow soldier shoot a dog
for no apparent reason.
"It hurt his heart is what he said,"
recounted his father. "On the one hand he was
immensely strong, but he had a big heart."
The last time Poindexter spoke to
her son was the end of last month.
"He said he was going out on a
mission for six or seven days and not to worry," she
He had also expressed disappointment
that his time in Iraq had been extended.
He was supposed to return home for
good in April, but he was just moved into a new
unit, which wasn't due to return until October.
Besides, he had big plans for his
return, she said – he was engaged to be married and
planning a career as a police officer.
Now his mother is planning his
funeral. She doesn't have a date yet because she's
waiting for his body to be returned to the U.S.
Joel Lewis will be buried with full
honours at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent,
Wash. Tahoma is where he lived before joining the
army and it's where his younger brother, Justin,
"We want him to be close to his
brother," Poindexter said.
Lewis said has had difficulty
sleeping since he learned of his son's death.
"I would have traded places rather
than it happen to him," he said.