Soon after he turned 18, Charles Yi Barnett told his mother he wanted to join the Army.
"I said 'No, you're not going anywhere,' " said his mother, Ipun "Yvonne" Dashiell. She forced one military recruiter to leave her home, but the teenager was determined to enlist. He left for basic training almost exactly a year ago, and in May he was sent to Iraq.
Late Thursday, military officials went to his mother and stepfather's Bel Air home with grim news: The 19-year-old had died that day of injuries he received in Tallil in a noncombat incident.
"I knew Jesus was holding his hand," his mother said. "I knew he would be OK. I prayed for him. I never, ever thought two soldiers would be knocking on my door in the middle of the night."
Barnett was the youngest of three sons born to his Korean-born mother and American father. His parents divorced when the boys were young, and the three boys grew up very close in their mother's Sykesville home, said his eldest brother, Jason Barnett, 22, of Cheyenne, Wyo.
As a boy, Barnett loved drawing complicated scenes of fantasy characters and comic book heroes. He was an excellent student and often helped his older brothers with their homework, his mother recalled.
"He was such a sweet boy. He was always a mama's boy," his mother said, adding that he often crawled in bed with her when he was scared as a child.
He attended Liberty High School in Sykesville and, after his mother remarried, Bel Air High School, before obtaining a GED. He wanted to serve in the Army for a few years and then attend college, his stepfather, Walter "Mike" Dashiell, said.
"He was really trying to better himself," his brother said.
Just before he was sent to Iraq, Barnett visited his family around Mother's Day. He had filled out and developed muscles in the Army, his mother recalled, and his voice had deepened.
The Department of Defense has not released specific information about the circumstances of Barnett's death. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, according to the Department of Defense.
His body arrived back in the country yesterday, his stepfather said.
His mother said that it was hard to accept her youngest son had died. "I'll have to see him, and then I'll believe it," she said. "He's too young to die."
In addition to his mother, stepfather and brother, Barnett is survived by his father, Kenneth Barnett of New Jersey, another brother, Jonathan Barnett of Bel Air, a stepsister, Lauren Dashiell of Bel Air, and a stepbrother, Walter Michael Dashiell Jr. of Bel Air. Funeral arrangements are pending.