Two More Mississippi Soldiers Die In Iraq

Relatives confirm that two more Mississippi soldiers have been killed in Iraq, bringing the state's war dead to 14.

A Columbus couple has been notified that their son, Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Dayton, was killed last week while on patrol in Iraq. Jim and Sheila Dayton said they spoke to their son last week just before he went on patrol.

The Daytons were told of Jeff's death on Thursday when two Army soldiers brought the news.

"We talked for over an hour on the phone,'' Jim Dayton said. "We had a really nice conversation with him, and that day was the day he was killed.''

Dayton's death was confirmed on Saturday, the same day a Mississippi Army National Guard soldier was killed in Iraq.

Family members confirmed the death of Sgt. Joshua Ladd, 20, of Philadelphia, late Sunday. Ladd died Saturday in an undisclosed location in Iraq, family members said.

Ladd was a member of the 367th Maintenance Company of the Army National Guard. He had joined the Guard after high school.

He was an Avenger System repairman and had volunteered for service with the 367th soon after it was mobilized last year. Previously, Ladd had been with the 298th Corps Support Battalion.

Authorities said Sunday that the family had been notified, but details surrounding Ladd's death were unavailable.

Officials also reported another member of the 367th was injured in the same incident.

Jim Dayton said the Army told them their son and seven other soldiers with the 1st Armored Division were killed Thursday in a car bombing south of Baghdad. The Army has not released the identities of the soldiers.

Jeff Dayton, 26, was married and one of six children of Jim and Sheila Dayton. Sheila Dayton said her son called himself number six because he was his parents' sixth child. The Daytons moved to Columbus from Tampa, Fla., in 1991.

"Jeff loves Columbus. I just wish he were coming back home a different way, but he is coming back to Columbus,'' Sheila Dayton said.

Jeff Dayton, a Caledonia High School graduate, joined the military because he was looking for bigger and better things in life, Jim Dayton said. Jeff Dayton joined the National Guard at 17, served four years, and joined the Army when his job didn't prove fulfilling enough, his father said.

"Jeff thrived in the military,'' his father said. "He was a soldier's soldier.''

After two years in Fort Hood, Texas, Jeff Dayton was sent to Baumholder Base in Germany. A year ago this April, he was deployed to Iraq.

"He didn't mind being there. He was proud to serve his country. He was proud to be doing what he was doing,'' Jim Dayton said.

Jim Dayton said his son's year in Iraq was nearly up, but his deployment was extended recently by three months.

"He took it in stride,'' said Sheila Dayton. "He was OK with it. He was doing his job. He was always upbeat.''

Christie Dayton, his wife of almost five years, lives on base in Germany. Jim Dayton said his son's body was to be sent to Germany, and his brother John, who is stationed in Saudi Arabia in the U.S. Air Force, will escort it home to Columbus in the coming week.

He said Jeff Dayton will be buried in the nearest military cemetery, in Corinth, with full military honors.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)