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Sergeant killed at checkpoint planned to settle in Murrysville
For GI, Iraq had gone from happy to horrible
Friday, June 13, 2003

Eleven days before he was ambushed along the Iraq-Syria border Sunday, Sgt. Micheal Dooley phoned his wife to tell her he'd chosen a name for the baby boy she is carrying.

Dooley family
Army Sgt. Michael E. Dooley, 23, poses in his Desert Camouflage Uniform at Fort Carson, Colo., for a family photo in March. Dooley was shot and killed in an ambush on an American checkpoint in western Iraq near the Syrian border Sunday.

Shea Micheal Dooley will be born sometime in October, four months after his father was gunned down by three men who pulled up to his checkpoint and asked for help.

"I needed him to come home safe. He was wanting to return as soon as possible because we were expecting a child," Christine Dooley said from her parents' home in Murrysville.

Dooley became the 16th soldier to die in Iraq in the past 15 days, a casualty that points up the continuing peril of coalition forces who have remained in the aftermath of the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

"I just can't believe anyone would do something like that to someone who was trying to help them," said Aaron Taylor, a friend of Dooley since both attended high school in Pulaski, Va.

The danger for troops occupying Iraq in the wake of Operation Iraqi Freedom was underscored in Dooley's letters to his wife over the months since his unit was called up.

"He said the people were real friendly and they were happy they were over there. He couldn't understand why they had to be there, that everything was turning out to be O.K.," she said.

Then the tone changed.

"After a while ... he said some of the people weren't friendly, not very nice people, and that it was just a horrible place to be," she said.

As Christine Dooley, 22, made plans to have her husband's body sent to Murrysville for a funeral sometime this month, experts testified on Capitol Hill about a postwar Iraq that is proving treacherous both to pacify and to rebuild.

"At this time, post-Saddam Iraq does not look like postwar Germany or Japan. It looks more like Afghanistan or Bosnia," one expert, Geoffrey Kemp of the Nixon Center, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday morning.

"This is still a risky area," said Peter Singer, a security expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "We accomplished step one. We toppled the regime. But steps two through 10 are still there -- essentially winning the peace. That's been nowhere near a success."

It raises the question of when the men and women of Iraqi Freedom can come home.

"Home" for Dooley had been, depending on his Army postings, Georgia and Colorado. When he left the Army, home was supposed to be Murrysville.

Once there, the plan was forChristine to return to La Roche College, which she left to marry her husband.

"He was waiting for me to finish school ... and then he wanted to go to school," she said. "He said he'd always wanted to be a math teacher. But then he changed it to being a pharmacist."

Dooley's death, at 23, ended a romance that began when Christine read a newspaper story in 2000 about soldiers stationed in Bosnia who needed letters from home. She wrote for a name and was given Dooley's.

Dooley family
U.S. Army Sgt. Michael E. Dooley and his wife Christine in their wedding photo.

"I started writing to him in September and he came back to the states in May," she said. The pair hit it off so well that Dooley drove up from his base in Georgia and phoned his pen pal, and they arranged a meeting place.

"As soon as I walked through the doors I saw him and I just said to myself I was going to marry him. I started shaking. He walked over and gave me a hug and he asked me why I was shaking. I said I was just nervous."

They had dinner that night on Mount Washington, then went to the movies -- "The Mummy Returns."

Micheal ended up helping Christine move out of her dorm room at La Roche College. Later that year, she moved to Georgia, where they married in a civil ceremony in March of last year then had formal ceremonies at a Methodist church in Plum this past February.

Along with his wife, Dooley is survived by his parents, Russell Dooley and Ann Davis, both of Virginia, and an 11-year-old brother, Jacob Ward; his father- and mother-in-law, Bill and Jean Garard of Murrysville; and a brother-in-law, Bill Garard Jr.

Funeral plans are incomplete.

First published on June 13, 2003 at 12:00 am
Dennis Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.
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