‘All gave some, some gave all’
A Memorial Day tribute to a West Memphis native who paid the ultimate price in service of his country
Raymond “Neal” Mitchell III was looking forward to returning to college and playing baseball when he finished his time in the Army.
The 21-year-old graduate of West Memphis Christian High School was home on a two-week leave during Thanksgiving and reassured his family that he was doing what he wanted to do.
On the ride to the airport, Neal told his father, Raymond Mitchell, Jr., that he would be OK.
Neal was killed in an ambush while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq on January 6, 2006 — a week after celebrating his 21st birthday.
He was a specialist in the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army.
“Neal was not afraid because in battle you are full of adrenaline and you know what you have to do,” Raymond Mitchell, Jr. told the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro in 2007.
Mitchell was born in Smyrna, Tenn. but spent most of his childhood in Aurora, Colo. In 2002 during his junior year he went to live with his grandparents, Raymond and Joyce Mitchell, in West Memphis.
Childhood friend Chris House of Colorado remembered playing laser tag together and said Mitchell got his tenacity in military life from those days on the playground.
“Neal was a little guy, but he was a giant,” House said. “He was fearless because he was just a competitor, just strong and that’s what makes him a giant on the inside.” Mitchell graduated in 2004 from West Memphis Christian School and attended Arkansas State University before joining the Army.
“He was very athletic,” his father said. “He was looking forward when he was out of the service to returning to college playing baseball. He was a very gifted athlete. He was a constant companion of mine.”
Classmate Matt Daigle said Mitchell kept to himself when he first arrived in West Memphis, but eventually broke out of his shell.
“Neal was not selfish with his life,” Daigle said.
Jon Jackson, another West Memphis Christian classmate, remembered that Mitchell had a great sound system in his old Cadillac.
“We had a lot in common because we both liked to drive fast,” Jackson said.
Lynette Bankstone, who tutored Mitchell in Algebra I when he first moved to Arkansas and attended his funeral, said Mitchell got off to a rocky start at the school, but turned things around.
“Neal was having some academic difficulties, but never gave up,” Bankstone said.
After a year in college, Mitchell enlisted in the Army in 2005. He deployed to Iraq in August 2006 as an infantryman with the Golden Dragons, Charlie Company of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.
Sgt. Matthew Brennan said Mitchell worked as a rifleman in the dismounted patrol, where he and others would walk the streets of Iraq and talk with local citizens. “He was very friendly toward the locals and he knew a lot about his equipment,” Brennan recalled.
His grandmother, Joyce Mitchell, said Neal was a point man, or lookout, ahead of the patrol. She remembers asking him why.
“He said, ‘I’m not the best shot. But I’m the fastest.’” He left on Dec. 6, 2006, to return to Baghdad after his Thanksgiving leave Continued on Page 2
Raymond “Neal” Mitchell III SOME GAVE ALL (cont.)
was up. “Neal brought pride to my name because he did a job for the benefit of every person in his country and he laid down his life,” Raymond Mitchell Sr. said about his grandson.
Mitchell was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart Medal posthumously. His other decorations include a National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Meda, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Mitchell was laid to rest in Mapleview Cemetery in Smyrna, Tenn.