East Texas Soldier Dies In Iraq

A soldier from East Texas has made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Fruitvale native, Sgt. Steven Wayne White died Wednesday after a vehicle he was driving ran over a land mine and exploded. At the time, White and at least one other passenger were en route to a firing range in Tikrit, Iraq.

White leaves behind wife, Laniece, and four children.

His family heard the tragic news Wednesday night.

"Everytime somebody mentions it, it starts to make me cry," says Charles White, the soldier's father. "I just broke down. It hit me hard."

Charles remembers Steven as a loving son, who grew up to marry his high school sweetheart, Laniece. Twelve years after their graduation, Laniece faces an uncertain future without her husband.

"There was a brief moment of shock," she says. "And right now, I'm still in disbelief." I can't believe it's actually happening."

White joined the Army right out of high school to support his young wife and their growing family. In a decade, he rose to the rank of Sergeant and expanded his family to four children.

After spending nine years in active service and two years in the reserves, Laniece says her husband considered retiring from the military. He changed his mind in earlier this year and signed on for six more years.

When he left for Iraq in March, White's family thought he'd be home within five to six months. Funeral arrangements are still pending. White's family believes his body will be back in East Texas early next week.

Kerri Panchuk, reporting.