Throughout his life, Curtis Hall kept swapping uniforms until age 19, when he donned Navy whites and eventually headed to Iraq.
Hall, 24, was killed by a roadside bomb April 6 while riding in a Humvee with two other sailors who also died, according to Hall's sister, Brenda Thibeault .
Hall, a petty officer second class, was on his second Iraq tour. He served on a team tasked with disarming and clearing roadside bombs (known as IEDs) to ensure safe passage for U.S. troops. In 2003, on his first tour, he worked with mine-detecting dolphins in the Persian Gulf.
"He could brighten a room just by walking in, " Thibeault said. "He always had a smile on his face, always was fun to be with."
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Born and raised in the Magic Valley town of Burley, the 6-foot, 7-inch Hall played basketball for Burley High School, in addition to excelling at other activities, Thibeault said.
He sang in the choir, played four instruments, was an expert marksman with both a pistol and rifle and enjoyed riding four-wheelers.
As a boy, he joined the Cub Scouts, moved up to Varsity Scouts and eventually earned his Eagle Scout badge with three palms.
"He was very, very talented, " Thibeault said.
Hall showed his bravery early in life, Thibeault said. At age 14, while on a whitewater rafting trip with his family on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a severe thunderstorm forced their boat to shore.
As the rafters scrambled to shore, a boulder tore loose from a nearby ledge, smashing in two. One piece tore Hall's arm to the bone. The other crashed into his father's head, knocking him face down in the river, unconscious. Despite his gaping wound, Hall helped his older brother pull their father to safety, Thibeault said.
After a nine-hour surgery, his father survived, and Hall was awarded a National Lifesaving merit award by the Boy Scouts of America.
After a semester of college, Hall followed in his father's and older brother's footsteps and joined the Navy in 2001. As in childhood, in Iraq he was known for his courage.
Thibeault said this is how one comrade described Hall: "It's a long, lonely walk out to an IED, and Curtis was not afraid to take that walk."
The Burley community has rallied around Hall's family, Thibeault said. A local Boy Scout troop has lined the cul-de-sac where Hall's parents live with American flags.
Hall was dedicated to his family and, although his siblings lived across Idaho and Montana, he would make it a point to visit each of them during his leaves from active duty and to bring gifts to his nieces and nephews, Thibeault said. Hall's family had planned to meet him in July, when he was scheduled to return from Iraq.
Hall came home in December and showcased his talent for cooking by deep-frying a turkey for Christmas dinner, Thibeault said.
The night before he died, Hall called his mother to wish her a happy birthday.
"The thing my mother will treasure the most is that last phone call, " Thibeault said.