Canadian in U.S. Army dies in Iraq

Barrie native, 28, and `immensely strong' son killed in roadside blast northeast of Baghdad

May 10, 2007 04:30 AM


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 U.S. military.

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 said.

"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 alive,"

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 recounted.

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, lives.

"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.