Private First Class Bryan Barron died when an explosion in Iraq killed him and three other members of the 155th. His daughter Hayley learned about the tragedy on Tuesday. Two days later, she met WLOX News at a Biloxi park, because she wanted to talk about her dad -- a hero on the battlefield. But more importantly, a hero in her aching heart.
Bryan Barron wrote his oldest daughter a note in December, right before he headed off to Iraq.
"This is for you Hayley," the note written on the back of his National Guard photo started. "Every time you look at this picture, I want you to be proud. And remember that everything I do is for you to have a better life than I did."
Even though she's only eight, Hayley West understood her dad was trying to say "that we would always love each other, stuff like that."
Around her neck was a replica set of dog tags sent to her by her father.
For much of our talk, Hayley had a smile on her face. She remembered all the good times she spent with Private Barron.
"He would always play with me, and would always tickle me, and I would laugh," she said.
One of the pictures Hayley brought to the park was her dad, in uniform, just before his tour of Iraq started. The eight year old saw two distinctly different messages in that picture.
"He was fighting for everybody," she said, and then in typical eight year old English, she added, "and that he loved me a very, very lot."
As Hayley ran around the playground, Mom looked on in amazement. Her eight year old child had been on an emotional roller coaster for three days.
Yet she had enough strength to do this interview, "because I wanted to tell people about me and my dad," Hayley said.
And at the same time, she wanted to honor her father.
"I was thinking that he would always be there for me. And he would always be looking down at me," she said.
The entire time Hayley was at the park, she kept thinking about the one message she hoped her dad never forgot while he was in Iraq, "that I love him."
Private Barron had two daughters. Hayley lives on the coast. His toddler lives near Jackson. Barron was supposed to come back to Mississippi in three weeks, to celebrate his youngest child's first birthday. Instead, his wife is planning his memorial service.