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5 years later, family honors fallen Chester soldier

A couple of blocks west and a couple north of downtown Chester - where Walnut Street and Hemphill Street and Gaston Street come together just west of the big, old columned houses of Old Chester's Old Money on York Street - is the Chester that sends its boys to wars.

Small houses, many of them rentals with plastic stapled over the windows to keep the heat in and the cold out this time of year.

The mail lady delivered a Christmas present Friday just in time for the holiday. Three kids spilled off the porch to collect the big box with glee.

On the porch of the little house on Gaston, looking across at the even smaller house at the corner of Walnut and Hemphill that is cut into two tiny apartments, a woman named Betty Lou Adkins sat on her porch and remembered.

"What a boy he was," Adkins said, pointing at the apartment. "Handsome and smart. The younger brother was, too. Real loyal, they looked after me and all of us. Run off a bunch of people here messin' around, more than once. You didn't mess with the Tinsley boys. Tough? They were hard and tough and nice at the same time.

"I watched them grow up. The older one, Logan, I watched him get bigger and talk about the Army. I'm his great-aunt - but like everybody, he called me Granny. Granny Betty Lou."

After Douglas Logan Tinsley - nobody called him Douglas, always Logan - finished Chester High School and the wrestling team and Junior ROTC, he enlisted in the Army at the height of the war in Iraq.

There was never any doubt he would end up in Iraq, fighting in that war that officially ended just last week after 10 years and thousands dead and tens of thousands wounded.

Ryan Tinsley, younger by two years, enlisted, too, after high school. That left their mother, Lori Tinsley, home with both boys gone to war.

In Iraq, Logan named his rifle "Betty Lou," in honor of that great-aunt across the street.

"I can hardly bear to think of what he had to do with that rifle, to try and stay alive in that awful place," said Betty Lou Adkins.

Logan became a combat medic and by December 2006 had been in so many battles he could not recall them all. On Christmas Eve in 2006, Logan had to kill an insurgent who had tried to kill him. Had to shoot him in the face with "Betty Lou."

Then, just a few hours later, Christmas Day 2006, Logan helped save the lives of nine American soldiers - and two Iraqis on the other side - using the medical skills he gained and hoped to hone when he got out of the Army and became a doctor.

But the day after Christmas came, and there would be no more dreams of saving lives or playing guitar in a rock band.

The Humvee Logan was riding in turned over into a ravine, and he was killed.

Because of the time difference between Iraq and Chester, it was still the day after Christmas, close to dark, when the Army vehicles pulled up to that apartment across the street from where Betty Lou Adkins still lives.

"We was on the porch, and I saw them and I run so fast toward Lori that I lost my shoes," said Paula Chapman, Adkins' daughter. "She wouldn't let them in. She kept yelling through the door, 'Don't you tell me you come here to say my son is dead! Don't you say that!' "

But that is exactly what those Army soldiers were saying five years ago today. Logan Tinsley, 21, was Chester's casualty of the war in Iraq. He left a fiancée at an Army base in Alaska.

"He was young and he was a hero," said Jeff Fairfax, an uncle, his mother's brother. "We sure know it has been five years."

Since Logan died, younger brother Ryan went off to fight in Iraq as a paratrooper. He was wounded, requiring surgery on an ear.

Ryan came home, got out of the military with honors under the sole surviving son rule, and lives his life in York, working at Siemens in Charlotte, as one of the toughest, nicest guys anybody ever met.

Lori Tinsley, the mother who raised those brave boys, died last year. She was 47.

In downtown Chester, those few blocks away, is the monument with the name Douglas Logan Tinsley on it. It is the sole name on the War on Terrorism black granite.

There is a new set of people living in that half-a-house apartment at the corner of Walnut and Hemphill in Chester. A young lady answered the door on Friday. She said she was the same age as Logan Tinsley.

"I remember when he died," the nice lady said.

Back across the street, Paula Chapman the cousin and Betty Lou Adkins the great-aunt, they sure remember the day Logan Tinsley died.

"I can't believe it has been five years," Chapman said. "It's just my opinion, but I didn't like that Iraq war. All those hundreds of thousands of soldiers being sent there. For what?"

Betty Lou Adkins doesn't talk much about wars started by rich politicians and fought by her family, kids from Chester, who grew up across the street. A grandson also fought in combat in Iraq and is still serving.

She recalls the kid from across the street who became a teenager, who was loyal to her and polite and generous. She looks at her great-grandchildren on the porch, holding the Christmas present that came in the mail.

Bad news is not supposed to ever come at Christmastime, but it sure did five years ago, the day after Christmas.

"Logan was a good boy and he became a good, strong man, a soldier's soldier," Adkins said. "We loved him and we were proud of him.

"We always will be proud of Logan Tinsley."