Thirty-nine-year-old Army SGT Alan Gifford died in an explosion Friday just a few months shy of his return home and his retirement from a 20-year Army career.
It's been more than 20 years since Lincoln High School teacher Glenna Burnfin taught the tall, lanky teen, but she remembers Alan Gifford vividly.
Glenna says, "He didn't come in with the ups and downs. He was consistently a joy; you knew he would come in with a positive attitude and was ready to do whatever you asked."
Gifford was on patrol in Baghdad Friday when a roadside bomb exploded, killing him and another soldier from Ohio. Gifford was a career soldier. He joined the Army in 1986 soon after graduating from Lincoln High.
A 1st sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division, he was sent to Iraq in January and was scheduled to return home and retire in February.
He is survived by his wife and two-year-old son, his parents and two brothers, including one who still lives in Tallahassee.
Funeral services are tentatively set for next week in Savannah.
The military has not yet released a picture of Gifford, so for now snapshots from his high school yearbook are all we have to share.
Glenna Burnfin adds, "He was able in his lifetime, which seems very short to me, to do some amazing things and to give to his country and to be an inspiration."
Gifford's brother Anthony talked at length about his brother. He called him a go-getter and a born leader. He says he died doing what he loved but he was also looking forward to retiring next year and starting a new life with his wife and young son.