Eliot Scott had it all planned out. He was going to bum around Hawaii for a while, and then start working toward a physical therapy degree at Boston University.

This was a new Eliot, someone his old friends would barely recognize. He’d been an indifferent student who would rather play soccer or pole vault – the two sports that kept him in school to graduate with his class in 2002 at Grant High School in Portland, Ore.

But he had something to prove. The day after Sept. 11, 2001, Scott joined an Explorer Search and Rescue crew. The next spring, he enlisted in the Army, and he picked the infantry. He wanted, he said, to “go places, do things, shoot guns and jump out of planes.”

He spent six birthdays on duty and went on 400 to 500 combat patrols and 40 engagements.

He got a shrapnel wound in his shoulder in October 2006. “I gotta get back to my kids” (his men), he immediately declared. Now, at 24, he was eager to go to college.

On Oct. 11, he returned to his home base, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to big welcome-home hugs from his mother.

Scott had long planned a party during his second tour that would make “Rio’s Carnivale look like a board meeting,” he wrote on his MySpace page. “I’ve got a lot of unwinding to do.”

Scott was out with his buddies in downtown Waikiki, still on an adrenaline high from Iraq, where U.S. soldiers are barred from drinking alcohol. All of them were partying, and all were intoxicated. But it was Scott who had either a seizure or an aneurysm, and died later the same night, Oct. 13, at age 24. Autopsy results are pending. He was out of Iraq only 48 hours.

Scott as a child was a daredevil, always pushing the boundaries: climbing, jumping, swimming, running and skiing.

“If you want to go with me,” he told his friends, “you gotta keep up.”

Around fifth grade, school started to get harder for him. Then middle school was terrible: His parents split up, and he lived with his mother.

Scott went out for pole vaulting as a broad-shouldered high school freshman. His grades weren’t good enough, but he was willing to show up for academic probation at 7:15 a.m. three days a week in order to compete. He also played varsity soccer.

His senior year, he told his family and friends “I’m thinking about joining the Army.”

His friends either laughed it off or were horrified. But Scott’s mind was set. In March 2002, he signed papers for a four-year enlistment and in September left for basic training at Fort Benning, Ga.

He was home for Christmas. He had, his friends noted, learned in the Army what he never learned in high school: how to suck it up. But the bigger change in his confidence came after his first tour in Iraq. He told his friends about war: firefights, marching with 60 pounds of gear in 120-degree heat, clearing IEDs, patrols, bullets, ambushes, MREs and losing platoon members.

His second tour was worse. There were missions every day, rarely a day off, and lots of near-misses.

“It’s a funny thing, being in charge of people,” he wrote in September 2006. “I am the authority figure in my soldiers’ lives right now. I am the person they come to with questions about equipment and tactics. Whenever they (mess) something up, it’s my fault, because a soldier is a reflection of his leadership.”

He got a shrapnel wound in his shoulder in October 2006. “I gotta get back to my kids” (his men), he immediately declared.

There wasn’t much to do off-duty in Iraq: watching DVDs of “Entourage” and “Scrubs,” working out, practicing with the air guitar band “Plunder,” teaching Iraqi kids to play soccer. But Scott, never much of a reader before, now always had his nose in a book, headlamp on at night.

His buddies teased him for his receding hairline, his haircuts that were always just too long for regs, and his attempts to eat healthy (“Don’t send any junk food,” he wrote home), although he was always first in line for a Twinkie.

Scott tried out for the Army’s Special Forces, just to see whether he could get in. He was chosen, but turned it down. He wanted to go to college.

It had been a very dangerous year, and Scott was relieved to get “his kids” all back to Hawaii safely.

Once there, he was going to party with his buddies, get a luxury apartment in Waikiki, meet some girls – he said he planned to “live outside my means for several months” – and count the 90 days left in Hawaii before his discharge. Then he would move back to Portland in January, take road trips, and run with the bulls in Spain.

Then start college in Boston next fall, and go on with the rest of his life.


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