Lance Corporal Kyle W. Brown

Photo Gallery: Kyle Brown

Kyle William Brown who was born in Virginia on December 27, 1983 and Killed In Combat on January 07, 2006 at the age of 22.

Rodney Bridges was asleep Saturday afternoon when four uniformed Marines came calling at his Poquoson home. His 12-year-old son, Daine, let them in, excited they might be friends of his beloved older brother.

Instead, the men delivered the news every military family dreads: Bridges’ eldest son and Daine’s brother, Private First Class Kyle W. Brown , had been killed Saturday in Iraq. “He was 100 percent Marine. That’s what he always wanted to do, and that’s what he did,” Bridges said Monday.

The 22-year-old , a 2002 graduate of Newport News’ Heritage High School , was no stranger to combat. It was his second tour in Iraq. He served with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Bridges, who did a hitch in the Army, said his son grew up dreaming of military service and was especially impressed with an uncle who had served multiple tours in Vietnam as a Marine. At Heritage, Brown enrolled in the junior reserve officer training corps, or JROTC. He headed to Parris Island , South Carolina, weeks after receiving his diploma. “When he went to boot camp, with his size, a lot of people didn’t think that he could make it,” his father said. “But in hand-to-hand combat, his instructor told us, he cleaned house.” Quiet, with a wiry body that was two inches shy of 6 feet, Brown’s physique didn’t scream “Marines,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Tom Smith , a JROTC instructor at Heritage. Still, Smith remembered him as a model cadet who returned to the school after making it through basic training to talk to the other students. He visited Smith again after his first tour in Iraq in 2003. “He’d seen a lot of action, been in a lot of tough fighting,” Smith said. “He was still the same quiet guy. He was more serious.” Bridges, 43 , takes some comfort from knowing that Brown died doing what he loved. During his 3½ years in the military, Brown was deployed more than he was home. He participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and did a tour in Afghanistan. He trained in Japan and Korea, served for a few months in Africa, and helped the Philippines’ military fight al-Qai da forces in that island nation, Bridges said. Brown trained as an assaultman, his father said, specializing in anti-tank and anti-personnel missions that can require close combat. He also carried the squad automatic weapon.

Since Brown was killed, Bridges has heard repeatedly about what a good Marine his son was. A friend of Brown’s in Iraq – a guy who co-signed the loan for Brown’s new Yamaha motorcycle – wrote to say that Brown had made life more enjoyable and that he always tried to do the right thing, even when that was impossible. The details of Brown’s death in Fallujah are still murky. The Marines told Bridges that his son was felled by light arms, probably a pistol or a rifle, and they suspect a sniper may have targeted him. The family is waiting for Brown’s body to arrive in the United States . They recounted the last time they were together before Brown’s unit deployed in September. Hotels outside Camp Lejeune were booked solid; the family shared a room that had only one bed. Brown slept on the window seat. “It’s better than a sand trap underneath a tank,” Bridges remembered his son saying .

The next day, older and younger brother enjoyed some last-minute horseplay. Father and son traded “I love yous” through an open car window. Brown shielded his father from a nagging feeling about the upcoming deployment. Bridges said that only lately did he learn that Brown told his father’s fiancee, Carolyn Byrd , he didn’t have a good feeling about his second tour in Iraq. The news has been especially difficult on Bridges’ mother, Bridges said; Brown lived with his paternal grandmother in downtown Newport News during high school. Bridges’ sister brought their mother – a cancer survivor who had surgery last week – to Bridges’ house in Poquoson to break the news. She pounded Bridges on the chest, insisting it couldn’t be true. Later, she fainted and fell, ripping open her incisions and requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital, Bridges said. Bridges said his son will be interred with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Services are pending. Those wanting to remember Brown are asked to make a contribution in his name to the American Cancer Society. “You don’t ever plan on burying your children,” Bridges said. “Kyle died, and he died in one of the better ways – in the service of his country, so we can enjoy the liberties we have.”