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Army Pfc. Michael S. Pridham

Died July 6, 2010 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

19, of Louisville, Ky.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Hohenfels, Germany; died July 6 at Qalat, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Marc A. Arizmendez and Spc. Roger Lee.

Was looking forward to meeting daughter

By Sean Rose

The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier Journal

A 19-year-old soldier from Louisville who was newly married and expecting his first child was killed by a bomb July 6 in Afghanistan.

Pfc. Michael S. Pridham, who relatives said was part of a tank crew, was just six weeks from returning home when he died in Qalat, in southern Afghanistan, from wounds he suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device, the Defense Department said.

Two other soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Marc A. Arizmendez, 30, of Anaheim, Calif., and Spc. Roger Lee, 26, of Monterey, Calif. All three were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, based in Hohenfels, Germany.

Pridham grew up off Third Street Road. He attended Southern High School before receiving his GED through the Army. His mother, Keri Allen, said Pridham and his family saw the military as a better path than the one he was on.

She said her son never got into any legal trouble but occasionally skipped school and ran with a rough crowd.

When he returned from basic training at Fort Knox last year, he was more mature and laid back, with an eye on building a life, Allen said. He married his girlfriend, Deidre Leitner, in October, two days before he deployed overseas, and they were expecting a girl.

“I still think it was the best choice he made because it made him a man — but it didn’t bring him home,” Allen said.

His in-laws remember him as a man with a great sense of humor who cared for people.

“He couldn’t wait to get back to see his child,” said his mother-in-law, Tamarra Leitner.

Pridham would call his wife twice a day — once in the morning when he was ending his assignments in Afghanistan and again late at night when he was starting his day, Leitner said.

The family discussed whether one of Pridham’s brothers should join the military too. But after Pridham got to Afghanistan, he told the family he didn’t want his brother following him.

“He hated Afghanistan — he did not want his brother doing it,” Allen said.

One day close to his deployment, Allen said, she gave her son an 11-page letter and asked him to promise to return home. “Mom, don’t be stupid,” he told her.

“No, promise me you’re coming home,” she said.

He did. But Allen said she had a bad feeling the whole time her son was overseas.

On July 6, close to midnight, a friend went to Allen and told her that there was someone to see her.

She came from the back of the house and saw two soldiers in dress-green uniforms. “I thought one of them was Mikey,” she said. “I thought he was surprising me.”

Then she moved closer and saw that she didn’t recognize either face.

“I took off running,” she said. “I knew what they were going to tell me, I knew they were going to tell me that Mikey was gone.”

She said she takes what comfort she can from knowing her son died serving others, and from the transformation she saw in him before his deployment.

“I adore him for that and I still do,” she said, “but I just want him home and he’s never coming home.”

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