Instead of celebrating Christmas reunited with their son, an injured army soldier, a Chester County couple is coping with his sudden death.
Spc. Charles Messer, 20, died in a single-car accident early Saturday in El Paso, Texas. Messer was supposed to visit his family in Fort Lawn that day.
"We left to go to the airport Saturday morning to pick him up at 12," said Doug Messer, Charlie Messer's father. "We stayed at the airport for three hours. We finally found out his ticket was canceled. We came home and called the base, and they told us they would find out something. About 10 minutes later, the Army chaplain pulled up."
Charlie Messer had been recuperating at Fort Bliss since July after being injured in Iraq. He suffered a concussion and a crushed right arm after his vehicle was hit by explosives, Doug Messer said.
Messer was serving in Iraq with the 2-7 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry. He died after he lost control of the 2007 Honda Accord he was driving and the car struck a metal guardrail and rolled over at about 1:45 a.m. Saturday, police told the El Paso Times. Messer was ejected from the car, according to the Times.
Messer's parents said he was an outgoing guy who loved sports, especially the Dallas Cowboys. The family had plans to watch the Cowboys play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on Saturday.
"He was very outgoing, very friendly, a very loving person," said Charlie's mom, Shelby Messer.
Shelby Messer said their family liked to go on camping and fishing trips and to watch football games on TV. One of her fondest memories of her son was a trip to Lowes Motor Speedway for a race while he was home in May.
"He loves Kasey Kahne," she said.
Charlie Messer joined the Army right after his graduation from Lewisville High School.
He was taking online courses in criminal justice and planned to be a police officer and later an FBI agent, Doug Messer said.
Yvonne Rector, whose son was Charlie Messer's childhood best friend, said Messer was determined to succeed.
"He was raised in a small area and was doing everything he could to make something better of himself," Rector said.
"The day he joined, he came by the house to tell us he joined the Army and he said, 'This is my first step.'"
Rector said that after her own son died several years ago, Messer continued to check up on her family.
"He didn't say a whole lot, but when he was your friend he was your best friend," she said. "He was there for anything."
In addition to his parents, Messer is survived by his brother, Eric Messer. Shelby Messer said Charlie liked playing with his brother's children and someday wanted kids of his own.
Charlie Messer will be buried at Chester Memorial Gardens. Funeral arrangements were not finalized as of press time.