Former COS student Preston Dennis killed in action

Skye Kinkade
Preston Dennis

Though he’d been home less than a year and the military told him he didn’t have to, 23 year-old Redding soldier Preston Dennis chose to deploy overseas with the rest of his division on March 18, 2011.

On Thursday, April 28, Dennis was killed in action in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province from wounds he suffered when his unit was attacked by an improvised explosive device, said the Department of Defense last week.

A former College of the Siskiyous student and 2008 ASB president, Dennis was well liked by his instructors and his peers, and is being remembered for his intelligence, courage and natural leadership ability.

“I remember his face and personality vividly,” said COS instructor Michelle VanAalst, who had Dennis in her English  classes. “He was so outgoing, so dedicated.  Not only was he a good student, motivated, engaged, but as a person, he made sure to make everyone around him feel good.”

Dennis chose COS after graduating from Modoc High School in 2006 for its criminal justice program and also for its close proximity to a ski park, said his mother, Maria Mix.

“He loved to snowboard,” she laughed. “He really blossomed during his time at College of the Siskiyous. He connected with many of his instructors there, and he talked about them frequently.”

“I remember Preston Dennis well, as he was a student in my Psychology of Prejudice class several years ago,” said instructor Heidi English. “Over the course of four months, I became acquainted with an amazing self-reflective, critical thinking, and conscious person.  It was obvious that Preston was a leader, and I voted for him when he ran for ASB President."

As ASB president, Mix said her son concentrated on bringing “good clean activities” to the students, including a bowling night and a barbecue complete with a Slip n’ Slide.

During his time at COS, Dennis lived at the dorms, and his second year he served as Resident Advisor.

“Once Preston knew you, you were his friend, and he’d do anything for a friend,” said Mix. “He’d go to any length for you. If one of his residents called him at 3 a.m., he’d get out of bed to go pick them up. That’s just how he was.”

Dennis’ first deployment to Afghanistan was in 2009. He returned home in May, 2010, but not before re-enlisting during a battlefield ceremony, Mix said.

At the time of his death, Dennis was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division out of  Fort Drum, NY.

“He wanted to be a 10th Mountain Division soldier... his unit was scheduled for deployment in March, and they told Preston he didn’t have to go because he’d only been home for 10 months. He told me, ‘Mom, I can’t send my guys out there without me. I have to go.’ So he went.”

After his death on April 28, Dennis was posthumously promoted to the rank of Sargeant, she said.

Dennis is survived by his  father, Richard Dennis, his mother, Maria Mix, her husband and retired Modoc County Sheriff Bruce Mix, wife Heather Dennis and sisters Angie and Amanda Dennis, all from the Redding area.

Dennis’ body is currently at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Mix said. She’s not sure when he’ll be returned to Redding, but she does know he’ll be buried with full military honors at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo.