Spc. Clifford L. Moxley Jr. had a love affair with the military. He served in the Army from 1981 to 1987. He couldn't stay away, and in 1991, he joined the National Guard.
He served with the 1st Battalion, 107th Field Artillery Regiment out of New Castle, and in March, his unit was deployed to Iraq.
Spc. Moxley died there in his sleep Saturday. The cause of death has not been released but officials believe it was from natural causes.
The husband and father of three had been assigned as a cook near Baghdad.
"He loves the Army," said his wife, Jean. "That's his life. He died where he wanted to be."
He had a two-week leave in August that he spent with his family. The first night Spc. Moxley, 51, was home, they had a party for him, and Jean Moxley made him his favorite meal -- fried chicken with a side of spaghetti and meat sauce.
The couple were married for 27 years. They met at a bar, Jean Moxley said laughing, when her future husband asked her to dance. After the song, he said to her, "If you ever decide to settle down with one man, give me a call," she remembered. She called him, and they'd been together ever since.
One of his great joys was playing with his grandchildren. During his two-week leave, Spc. Moxley made it a point to spend time with them -- even if it meant bouncing on a trampoline.
During his leave, he also built four warplane models with his wife.
She last spoke with her husband on the telephone on Thursday. On Friday, she received her last letter from him. She said it was sweet, and in it, he told her he missed her and loved her.
Her husband believed in being equal partners in their marriage, she said, with both taking on half of the household work. She added, though, that when he made her angry, he was great at making up -- including cooking her breakfast.
In his civilian life, Spc. Moxley worked at Castle Cheese in Slippery Rock. He worked in the factory in packaging, said George Myrter, owner of the company. Eventually, Myrter hoped to train Spc. Moxley, whose nickname was "Pudge," to become a cheesemaker.
"We hoped he wouldn't have gone [to Iraq]," Myrter said. "He said, no, that's his job. He's going. That's what he wanted to do."
Two other soldiers from the 107th have died during the war in Iraq. Spc. Mark J. Kasecky, 20, and Spc. Carl F. Curran II, 22, were killed May 17 when an explosive detonated near their Humvee, sending it crashing over an embankment into a canal. Both men drowned.
In addition to his wife, Spc. Moxley is survived by two daughters, Tonia Kozora of Ellwood City and Christina Moxley of New Castle; a son, Clifford III, of New Castle; and eight grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete, but a service is planned for Thursday in Baghdad.
Paula Reed Ward can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1601.