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War casualties hit home

Kyle Brown was a skinny, gangly kid who struggled to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He died just after his 22nd birthday — a hero in Iraq.

He volunteered to return for a second tour of duty, said his mother, Theresa St. Pierre of Oak Harbor.

“He was a dedicated Marine and I am a proud Marine mother,” she said.

Kyle volunteered to return to Iraq because he thought he should be with his unit, St. Pierre said.

He was on patrol with his unit near the troubled city of Fallujah early on Jan. 7 when they were attacked.

“Kyle took a fatal shot from a sniper’s gun. It hit him in the face and he died nine minutes later,” his mother was told by the Marine Corps.

The news was devastating to his mother and his step-father Richard St. Pierre. Although Kyle had lived mostly with his father since he was 14, family bonds remained strong.

Memories flooded back of a son who decided early on a military career. His patriotism was stirred by a great-grandfather — a World War II veteran.

But it wasn’t easy for Kyle to meet the Marines’ requirements.

As a toddler he’d suffered hearing loss due to ear infections. As a result, his speech and reading were delayed. But he was determined to graduate from high school with a full diploma. One teacher guided all his extra homework hours. Another teacher encouraged body-building to meet the Marines’ weight requirements.

“He just didn’t scream Marines,” his mother recalled of her son’s slim physique.

“He was an exceptional kid, kind and loving and it was rare for him to say a harsh word about anyone,” she said.

When Kyle was 12, he spent one summer in Europe with his maternal grandmother Anita Sherrill. Often called “Doc” because she holds two doctoral degrees, she has taught the past 10 years in Oak Harbor schools.

But in 1995, Sherrill was directing education programs for the Department of Defense in Europe.

Sherill took Kyle and another grandson Jason to Disneyland Paris and then to Germany. They climbed Zitzwitz, the highest mountain peak in Germany. He was inspired. Kyle said later. “If I can climb the Zitzwitz, I can be a Marine.”

“I had a wonderful time with him,” Sherrill said.

He also meet some DARE officers from the Los Angeles Police Force who were visiting the European schools. This encounter may have led him to plan to go into law enforcement at the end of his military career.

But this was not to be.

He died along with two other Marines that tragic morning in Iraq. He was buried Jan. 16 in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

“He died fighting for our way of life... freedom of religion... women’s rights. He saw mistreatment of women in Iraq and Afghanistan while he was there,” she said.

Kyle entered the Marines within weeks of high school graduation, completing boot camp October 2003. He trained in Korea and Japan. His first duty tour was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also served in Afghanistan, Africa and the Philippines.

Kyle’s mother was presented with the U.S. flag flown home with him from Iraq. She placed flowers and mementos on top of his coffin before it was lowered into the grave.

“I watched him born and I watched him laid to eternal rest,” she said.

She is compiling a book about Kyle’s life and requests anyone who knew him contact her with their remembrances. Her e-mail is richandtia@verizon.net.

A mememorial service is set for 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Elks Lodge, 155 N.E. Ernst in Oak Harbor. An obituary can be found on page 9 of today’s News-Times.

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