SOUTH JORDAN BYU student Christian Carnley had been meaning to write a letter to his friend in Iraq Army Pvt. Jordan Thibeault.
This past weekend, however, Carnley found out that Thibeault died Friday from injuries related to a noncombat incident. The exact cause of death at this time is unclear.
"It kind of hit me hard," Carnley said. "I always imagined seeing Jordan again."
The Department of Defense stated Monday that the incident is still under investigation. A relative of parents John and Celeste Thibeault said Monday that family members will make a statement on Wednesday.
Thibeault, 22, who is also survived by one sister, was assigned to Germany-based 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. He died while at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq.
Thibeault is the 48th person with Utah ties to die while serving in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The most recent Utah war fatality was West Valley City's Larry Ismael Rougle, 25, who was killed last October during a gun battle in Afghanistan.
In a phone interview, Carnley, 18, described his friend as always saying, "Let's go do something," when they were children.
Carnley's mother, Ruth Carnley, recalled how, as a child, Thibeault loved to ride bikes, build with Legos and act out impromptu plays at her house.
Carnley said Thibeault was quiet, a hard worker and always helpful.The fact that Thibeault re-enlisted in the Army did not surprise neighbors.
"He felt like he was doing something important," Ruth Carnley said through tears. "I think that's what Jordan was feeling.
"'I'm serving, I'm literally serving,"' are words she imagined Thibeault saying to himself.
Other neighbors echoed that sentiment.
"He really felt like he was doing the right thing over there," said Mike Watts. "I know everyone around here is really proud of him. ... It's terrible for a family to have to deal with that."
Although Thibeault's family declined interviews Monday, Paul Yates said he had visited with the soldier's parents, who he said are doing "pretty good" and leaning on their religion to help cope.
"They have a hope for seeing him again," Yates said. He called Thibeault an active, fun-loving, nice kid.
Yates noted how there are two more men in the neighborhood serving overseas. "You never think it's going to happen in your own neighborhood," Yates said about hearing news of Thibeault.
One of the other soldiers from the neighborhood is Peter Brower, 28, who is serving with Army intelligence in Afghanistan. His sister, Debbie Brower, 29, knew Thibeault as someone who benefited from his time in the Army.
"The military did him wonders," she said. Brower used words like "direction" and "maturity" to describe what Army life did for Thibeault.
She spent some time on the Internet Sunday talking with her brother, who said he was sorry to hear what happened. Brower was reassured by her little brother that he would be fine and she is certain he will be."Nothing will happen to him," Brower said. "I have this connection with him. It's one of those intuition things I know he'll be all right."