To honor and remember

Theresa St. Pierre holds out the Honor and Remember flag for her son, Lance Cpl. Kyle William Brown, who was the first Marine from Whidbey Island to lose his life in Iraq. Dennis Connolly/Whidbey Crosswind

On Jan. 7, 2006, Lance Cpl. Kyle W. Brown was walking on patrol with his fellow Marines in Fallujah, Iraq when he was shot by a sniper in the neck between his helmet and his body amour. He died nine minutes later, said his mother, Theresa St. Pierre. He was 22 and the first Whidbey Island solder to die in Iraq, she said.

Now Theresa has an Honor and Remember Flag flying below the American Flag in her front yard. It speaks to people who pass her house about her  son, Kyle, who really wanted to be in the Marine Corps and was willing to put his life on the line to do so.

Kyle Brown was tall and “skinny as a rail” said Theresa, but worked out with weights and gained enough muscle — 20 to 30 pounds — to get in the Marine Corps, which he did shortly after graduating from high school.

He loved it, said his mother.

“From the time he was 11 or 12 he wanted to be a Marine,” she said.

Different pictures of Kyle Brown are featured on a Freedom Quilt made for Theresa St. Pierre by Betty Nielsen in Fonda, Iowa. Dennis Connolly/Whidbey Crosswind

He completed boot camp in October, 2002. He trained in Korea and Japan and his first duty tour was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also served in Afghanistan, Africa and the Philippines.

“This was his third deployment in Iraq,” St. Pierre said. “He’d already done two deployments in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He wanted to go back because his friends in the Marine Corps were over there.”

His permanent duty station was Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Kyle William Brown didn’t suffer, his mother believes. His spinal cord was severed and whatever he went through in his last nine minutes he couldn’t feel.

He wasn’t married and did not have a girlfriend.

But he had a mother and she suffered.

Kyle had gone to live with his father when he was 13 and didn’t come back, but the bonds with his mother were there since his birth.

“He was my Marine,” she said. “I watched him come into this world and I watched him get buried.”

She found out that Kyle had died by word of mouth.

The Marine Corps sent word from Quantico, Va. to Camp Lejeune and by the time it got to Whidbey, St. Pierre had already found out. She dealt with it and still deals with it.

St. Pierre said the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Calls Officer was a big help.

“We worked with the CACO and he was very helpful. We went to his funeral in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors,” she said. “He got tickets for four of us, hotel rooms, everything.”

St. Pierre was also presented with the U.S. flag flown home with Brown from Iraq and she placed flowers and mementos on top of his casket before it was lowered into the ground.

She received a beautiful quilt from Betty Nielsen from Freedom Quilts in Fonda, Iowa, with pictures and memories of Kyle on it.

Then in the fall of 2008, she received an e-mail from George A. Lutz.

He had started a national campaign so that people who had lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, or anywhere in the military, would have a flag that would show their sacrifice was not in vain, and they would never be forgotten.

The flag is for anyone in the U.S. military for the last 200 years who died while serving their county and the right to officially fly the flag and be recognized is in committee right now.

So Theresa might be the first one to fly the flag on Whidbey Island but there are thousands of other homes in the United States that could fly the flag as well.

As the words on the Honor and Remember presentation say:

“With this flag we honor this patriot’s unwavering dedication and remember their selfless sacrifice. By displaying this symbol collectively as a nation, we humbly recognize the enormity of your loss and respectfully say thank you.”