NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 400-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2006
DoD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Captain Brian S. Letendre, 27, of Woodbridge, Virginia
Corporal Stephen R. Bixler, 20, of Suffield, Connecticut
Letendre died May 3, 2006, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's Inspector and Instructor Staff, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Plainville, Connecticut.
Bixler died May 4, 2006, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Friday May 05, 2006:
A U.S. Marine from northern Virginia has died in Iraq this week, the Defense Department (website) announced Friday.
Captain Brian S. Letendre, 27, of Woodbridge, Virginia, was stationed in Plainville, Connecticut, with the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment of the 4th Marine Division. He died Wednesday in combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, military officials said.
Letendre was killed when a a suicide vehicle exploded near him, his family said. It was his second tour of duty in Iraq.
“He wasn't ordered to go back to Iraq for another combat tour, and his unit was not going to deploy there, but he selflessly and courageously volunteered to go help train the Iraqi forces,” his family said in a prepared statement.
“Brian just didn't feel right being back here in the U.S. while other Marines were serving overseas, and wanted to get back to the front lines as soon as he could,” the statement read.
Letendre was born in California and raised in Woodbridge, where he graduated from Potomac High School in 1996.
He joined the Marines in 2000 after graduating from Milligan College in Tennessee. After completing training, he chose to become an infantry officer. Before serving in Iraq, Letendre was deployed in Okinawa and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He first went to Iraq as part of the initial invasion in 2003 and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Combat “V” for valor. Letendre returned to train Iraqi forces about three weeks ago, his family said.
His survivors include his wife, Autumn, his 3-year-old son Dillon, his parents, and two brothers.
He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on 15 May 2006.
Captain Brian S. Letendre had survived one tour in Iraq. In the early days of the invasion, his Marine battalion had rolled north from Kuwait, engaged in heavy combat at Nasiriyah and elsewhere, and Letendre had come through it all decorated with a “V” for valor.
He made it home to Woodbridge, to his wife, Autumn, and his newborn son, Dillon.
Captain Brian S. Letendre of Woodbridge was killed Wednesday by a suicide bomber. He had volunteered for his second tour in Iraq.
Even after two years of calm, though, Letendre never felt comfortable knowing his fellow Marines were still fighting a war, his friends and family said. So he volunteered to go back, accepting perhaps one of the most dangerous assignments the war has to offer.
Three weeks ago, Letendre returned to train Iraqi soldiers. He was killed Wednesday when a suicide car bomber attacked his observation post in Anbar province, military officials and family said. He was 27.
“Brian just didn't feel right being back here in the U.S. while other Marines were serving overseas,” his family and friends wrote in a statement. “. . . Despite others telling him to stay back and be safe, Brian could not resist his call to duty.”
Brian Letendre grew up in Woodbridge. He was a good student with a competitive streak, his friends said, and was captain of the soccer team at Potomac High School, where he graduated in 1996. He went on to Milligan College in Tennessee, graduating in 2000 with a degree in computer science and a wife, his college sweetheart, Autumn.
He and two childhood buddies had decided about the same time to join the Marines, and Letendre was commissioned a Lieutenant in May 2000.
“It was kind of an unspoken thing we all wanted to do,” said Captain David Bann, one of the friends. “We all wanted to get out there and serve our country.”
Letendre trained at the Quantico Marine Base to become a military infantry officer. He was deployed to Okinawa, Japan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and then to Kuwait at the start of the war. His son was born the day before he crossed into Iraq.
He returned from Iraq in May 2003 and was assigned a year later to the Marine Forces Reserve Inspector/Instructor staff in Plainville, Conn. Although he did not talk about it much, Bann said, Letendre was anxious to return to Iraq.
“He just didn't feel like sitting back,” Bann said. “He wanted to do his part.”
Letendre volunteered for an 11-man “military transition” team that was to train Iraqi army recruits, who have been so relentlessly targeted by suicide bombers. Three weeks ago, the job took him to Tammin, in the Anbar province of Iraq — the swath of desert west of Baghdad considered the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgent movement.
On Monday, Letendre sent his wife an e-mail saying that he missed her and Dillon dearly but that he felt proud to be serving in Iraq. On Wednesday, he was killed. Military officials did not specify where Letendre was in Anbar when the suicide bomber attacked. Letendre's family said he was on foot when his post “received a complex attack,” including from a car bomber carrying an improvised explosive device.
In the family's statement, Letendre's parents, Milton and June Letendre, said they believed in their son and what he was doing in Iraq.
“Several times throughout his life, Brian could have chosen the easier or more comfortable path, but he didn't,” the statement read. “He . . . followed his heart to where he felt he could help make this world a better place.”
Besides his parents, his wife and 3-year-old son, Letendre is survived by his two brothers, Justin and Nick. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on 15 May 2006.
8 May 2006:
Brother in Arms
Dearest Maria and chief,
It was a bad day yesterday in Ramadi. I have attempted to put my thoughts into words below and into the attachment, but have likely failed in conveying the raw emotion we are all feeling right now. Please disseminate to all and I will write again as time permits.
3 May 2006:
I lost a brother today. Marine Corps Captain Brian S. Letendre died in a well coordinated insurgent attack conducted against one of our strongpoints here in Ramadi, Iraq. A U.S. soldier was also killed and another fellow Marine was wounded in the same assault. As a police officer and Marine, I've experienced death before, but this one hit especially hard. Brian and I are part of an eleven-man team assigned as advisors to an Iraqi infantry battalion here in Ramadi. I was on the three vehicle gun truck convoy that took him to the strongpoint where he was to begin operations with one of the Iraqi battalion's infantry companies. Prior to leaving Brian at the strongpoint, I shook his hand and told him to keep his head down. Brian laughed and said he had to, “because I owed him.” Brian was a college wrestler and managed to pin me the last time we practiced ground fighting. It was our running joke that I would one day return the favor. Brian will never grapple again. Nor will he be there to see his three-year-old son, Dillon, wrestle or play his favorite sport, soccer.
In the hours following Brian's death, my emotions have run the spectrum. This evening, we went to the morgue on the local American base to retrieve Brian's body for the “angel flight” home. Servicemen in combat don't have the luxury of attending funerals of fallen comrades. The next best thing is to honor them as pallbearers from the morgue or ambulance to the helicopter in which their journey back to the states will begin.
In the morgue, I was able to spend a few minutes alone with Brian. I fought the tears but they too won their battle this night. As I held his head in my hands, I felt rage toward God and hatred toward Iraqis that I was unable to dispel. Standing up, I walked into the next room where Marines and soldiers were waiting quietly to carry Brian's body to the helicopter. I walked to the back of the room, the anger still seething. I stopped. There on the wall hung two flags, one American, one Iraqi. I paused. In addition to the American casualties, an Iraqi soldier was also killed and several others were wounded during the day's battle. I glanced to my right. There, standing next to me was one of our Iraqi translators, mourning for Brian with tears streaming down his face. My hatred and rage melted away.
I reflected. This wasn't about Americans and Iraqis. This was about noble men dying for a cause they believed in, a cause greater than them, greater than us. I don't care about the reasons this war began, I cannot change the mistakes that have been made in its prosecution, and I have little stomach for the negative banter about the war that goes on back home in the U.S. media In my simple way of thinking, we are allowing the Iraqi people the opportunity to experience freedoms that we take for granted but that they would otherwise never know. On an individual human level, life does not get much more meaningful than that. I put my arm around my interpreter's shoulder and pointed at the two flags. I looked into his eyes as tears welled yet again in mine. “We are brothers,” I stated softly. His gaze met mine. He nodded and replied with tears and shaking voice, “yes, brothers. We are brothers and we have both lost our brothers”
Hours later as we walked solemnly and silently to the helicopter landing zone in the early morning darkness, the Muslim call to prayer soulfully sounded throughout Ramadi. To my ears, it was a song of tranquility. This day, as all days, the sun will rise with the hope of peace. No matter the bitterness in how the day may end, it is that hope of peace in the dawn that gives life its precious meaning.
Sergeant, La Habra Police Department
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Marine Corps Reserve
Farewells Made To Officer And Friend
May 13, 2006
Some called him Brian, while others addressed him as sir. But for all who spoke at a memorial service on Friday for Marine Captain Brian Letendre, he was a friend who led by example.
Letendre, 27, was killed in Iraq on May 3, 2006. The Virginia native lived in New Britain for about two years while he was the inspector-instructor for the Marine Reserve unit based in Plainville.
Letendre will be buried next week in Arlington National Cemetery, but those in Connecticut who knew Letendre wanted to say goodbye themselves. They organized Friday's service at the United Methodist Church, where Letendre and his wife were members. About 100 people attended, including church members, Marines and Governor M. Jodi Rell.
“We needed to do this for ourselves,” said Lieutenant Colonel G.L. Larghe, who took over Letendre's position at the Reserve unit after Letendre was sent to Iraq.
People described a man who was eagerly embraced by those around him because he embraced them as well.
“From the moment [the Letendre family] stepped in here, they started reaching out to people and serving the church,” said April Parsons, a parishioner at United Methodist, after the service. “You couldn't help but want to get to know them.”
The Marines who worked under Letendre's command at the Reserve unit had a more formal relationship with him. But he still worked his way into their hearts.
“When Captain Letendre died, the Marine Corps lost one of its best and brightest, Charlie Company lost its commanding officer and I lost a friend,” Petty Officer Michael Mussett, the Reserve unit's medical corpsman, said at the service. Fighting back tears, Mussett described Letendre as an officer who set a good example.
“He had genuine concern and trust for the people in his command, and he made people bring their best to the table,” Mussett said. “This was a commanding officer you wanted to follow.”
Letendre is survived by his wife, Autumn Letendre, and their 3-year-old son, Dillon. They were not present at the service.
The service was a mix of eulogies, prayer and military ceremony. At the end, Larghe did a symbolic roll call, calling out the names of several Marines at the service who responded by shouting “Present.” Then Larghe called Letendre's name several times, pausing for a response that did not come. Then Larghe stepped aside while taps was sounded.
Letendre joined the Marines in 2000 and was in his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed in combat in Al Anbar province. In Iraq, Letendre volunteered for a special unit that trained Iraqi soldiers.
In Plainville, Letendre oversaw the Reserve unit, called Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, and made sure it was ready for deployment. When the unit was sent to Iraq, he went also.
Speakers said on Friday that Letendre's work went well beyond the Reserve unit.
One of Letendre's tasks was working with the families of Marines from Connecticut who were killed. Leesa Philippon said she learned of Letendre's death only a few days before the one-year anniversary of when he had had to tell her that her son, Lance Corporal Lawrence Philippon of West Hartford, had died. She said he did a difficult task with caring and compassion.
“Brian helped us carry the cross of our son's death and he left sunshine in all of our hearts,” Philippon said.
An obituary provided by the family says memorial contributions can be made to the Dillon Letendre Trust Fund, c/o the Law Office of Michelle Jackson, 155 E. Market St., Suite 400, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 or to the Brian S. Letendre Soccer Scholarship, Milligan College, P.O. Box 750, Milligan College, Tennessee 37682.
Captain Brian S. Letendre was a man torn between two loves – that of family and of the Marine Corps.
Both were well represented at the 27-year-old's burial service at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday morning.
Hundreds gathered at the gravesite where the son, brother, husband, father and best friend found his final resting place amid a round of Taps and a 21-gun salute.
Letendre was killed May 3, 2006, in combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq, weeks after he arrived to teach infantry tactics to Iraqi soldiers.
He was the 229th person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Hundreds of family, friends and fellow service men and women also attended a 7:30 a.m. service at Hylton Chapel in Woodbridge.
Milton Letendre told the crowd he was proud to be Brian Letendre's father.
And Letendre's widow, Autumn, remembered her husband in a calm speech that friends said displayed her strength as a proud Marine's wife.
Letendre's family and friends knew him as a humble competitor and a jovial, well-rounded man of duty.
They said it was his love for Marines that led to his second tour in Iraq.
“He wanted to stay at home with his family,” said Captain Daniel Nolan, a Marine who roomed with Letendre in Japan and fought by his side in Iraq.
“But he wouldn't have been at peace with himself if he didn't go.”
At the burial service, Nolan presented the flag that covered the casket to Letendre's wife, Autumn.
Brian and Autumn Letendre, Nolan said, were the perfect match.
“If he didn't love the Marine Corps like he did, he couldn't love her the way he did,” Nolan said.
Letendre knew that Autumn Crane would be a wonderful Marine's wife, he told his friends.
The soccer lovers married straight out of college in 2000 and began a marriage that hinged on each other's strength, said friends.
Tim Kaschak, who grew up with Letendre in Woodbridge, said his friend is his hero.
“I think I'll be inspired by [his commitment] forever,” Kaschak said. “The sacrifice he made will always be in my heart.”
Letendre was gone more than he was at home and Autumn Letendre made a quiet sacrifice every day her husband was away, said Nolan.
Letendre struggled too, Nolan said.
“His Marines were over there. He felt that sense of duty,” Nolan said. “That love of Marines – that's what drove him more than anything else.”
At home, Autumn was thoughtfully supportive of Letendre's undying commitment to his fellow Marines, Nolan said.
Still, in a letter to those expressing condolences to her family, she urged other Marine wives to stay strong.
“Do not let fear take away the great bond that deployment can create between you and your spouse,” she wrote.
She said her 3-year-old son is a spitting image of his father.
Letendre had called Dillon his “little man” – not his little boy, said Larry Crane, Letendre's father-in-law. They shared the same spirit, he said.
Autumn Letendre said that in the future she'll teach to her son what kind of person her husband was.
For now, she's not sure what she'll do, she said.
“I'm going to set up some new dreams and try them out,” she said. “I'm going to take my time and appreciate everything here.”
She asked that anyone who knew Letendre send a letter with a description of him or a story about him to her for son's keepsake.
Send letters to 5022 Rockville Road, Indianapolis, IN 46224.
Send contributions in memory of Letendre to the Brian S. Letendre Soccer Scholarship, Milligan College, or the Dillon S. Letendre Trust Fund to the Law Office of Michele L. Jackson, 155 E. Market St. Suite 400, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
‘Classic' Marine Is Laid to Rest
By Arianne Aryanpur
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Captain Brian S. Letendre told his mother 15 years ago that he would become a Marine. In fact, he and two of his buddies decided — at age 13 — that they would become captains together.
“I think he liked the core values: honor, courage, commitment,” said childhood friend David Bann, who was commissioned as a Marine the same month as Letendre. “And he liked the adventure — to travel and to see the world.”
Yesterday — after a six-year career in the Corps that took Letendre to Okinawa, Japan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Kuwait; and twice to Iraq — he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He would have turned 28 this past Saturday.
Letendre was killed May 3, 2006, in Iraq's Anbar province when a suicide car bomber attacked his observation post, according to friends and family. He was the 229th person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
About 100 mourners joined the procession to Letendre's grave site yesterday morning. A horse-drawn caisson carried his flag-draped coffin, which was covered with a rain tarp.
But as the chaplain delivered the sermon, sunlight broke through the clouds. Later, a gentle breeze blew as Marines handed American flags to Letendre's wife, Autumn; son, Dillon, 3; and mother, June. He is also survived by his father, Milton, and brothers Justin and Nicholas.
Earlier in the morning, scores of family members and friends gathered at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge to honor a local hero.
Letendre, who was born in Stanford, California, moved to Woodbridge in 1985. He graduated from Potomac Senior High School, where he was a goalie and eventually captain of the soccer team.
“He was the smallest one on the team, yet he was still a goalkeeper,” his mother said. “He was always in front, always climbing up that ladder.”
Letendre also ran cross country “to stay in shape,” according to his running coach, Bill Stearns, and he excelled academically.
“We knew he was going to go off and do great things,” said Travis Harris, his soccer coach.
Senior year, Letendre was voted “best personality” by his classmates. Irene Avelar, who was in government class with Letendre, recalled his charisma. “He was confident about everything, he knew how to laugh things off and he treated everyone the same,” she said.
In 1996, Letendre received a soccer scholarship to Milligan College in Tennessee, where he met his future wife. They married in 2001, after he finished basic training.
Letendre was first sent to Iraq in 2003. A day before his platoon crossed the border into the country, his wife gave birth to their son.
Letendre's awards included the Purple Heart and a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V.”
Upon returning home from his first Iraq tour, he was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's Inspector and Instructor Staff, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, based in Plainville, Conn. There, he prepared soldiers for deployment. Marines who knew Letendre there spoke last week of his affability — and his mental and physical toughness, traits that probably led him to volunteer for an elite unit that trained Iraqi troops. He was called to duty in April 2005.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Larghe, who assumed Letendre's duties when he was deployed, spoke with Letendre four days before he was killed. Letendre told him that the work was difficult but that he was loving it, Larghe said.
“He was a classic Marine officer. Marines move forward. That's what we do,” Larghe said. “They always want to be in the fray and in the fight. For a Marine to stand on the sidelines is not something we're accustomed to. [Letendre] could have stayed, but he went forward.”
Marine Captain Brian Letendre and his wife, Autumn, would sometimes visit Arlington National Cemetery, soaking in the history and atmosphere of sacrifice told by hundreds of thousands of gravestones.
“We'd walked through these grounds,” Autumn Letendre, 29, recalled recently. On those walks, Brian Letendre, who grew up in Woodbridge and graduated from Potomac High School, expressed his hope to one day be buried at Arlington.
That day came just over a year ago. On his second tour in Iraq, Letendre, 27, was killed by a suicide bomber on May 3, 2006, in Anbar province.
At Letendre's funeral at Arlington, his 3-year-old son, Dillon, was presented with a folded American flag by his uncle, a Marine Corporal. That moment is captured in a new book, “Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery,” which was published last month by National Geographic Books.
During a ceremony at Arlington on May 18 marking the book's release, Autumn Letendre, accompanied by Dillon, received a commemorative copy of the book.
Over the past two years, a team of accomplished military and civilian photographers took more than 30,000 photos depicting almost every aspect of life and death at Arlington: The ceremony and the sadness. The horse-drawn
caissons and the mourners. The changing of the seasons and the timeless beauty and dignity.
“A lot of love, a lot of sweat, a lot of tears” went into the project, said John C. Metzler Jr., Superintendent of the cemetery.
The resulting book, with an essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Washington Post staff writer Rick Atkinson, is to be presented to the families of every service member killed while serving on active duty during the terrorism fight and subsequently interred at Arlington.
“This legacy you give us tonight will be passed on from generation to generation,” acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said to the audience. “It's truly a piece of art.”
Autumn Letendre accepted her copy of the book on behalf of Marine families. “It's very emotional,” she said. “It brings back memories.”
Mike and Jacqueline Chavis of Reston, parents of Airman 1st Class LeeBernard Chavis, a District native who was killed by a sniper in Baghdad in October 2006, accepted a book on behalf of Air Force families.
“It's an honorable thing to do,” Jacqueline Chavis said of the book project. “We both know nothing will take the place of him.”
Army Command Sergeant Major Debra L. Strickland, wife of Army Sergeant Major Larry L. Strickland, who died in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in 2001, accepted a book on behalf of Army families.
Laura Youngblood, wife of Navy Petty Officer First Class Travis L. Youngblood, was presented with a book on behalf of Navy families. Her husband died in July 2005 of wounds received when a makeshift bomb exploded
during operations in Hit.
Representing the Coast Guard was Patricia Bruckenthal, wife of Petty Officer Third Class Nathan Bruckenthal, who was killed in April 2004 in a suicide attack on a Coast Guard vessel.
Sales of the commercial version of the book will be used to fund the publication of commemorative copies given to families.
LETENDRE, BRIAN SCOTT
CAPT US MARINE CORPS
- DATE OF BIRTH: 05/13/1978
- DATE OF DEATH: 05/03/2006
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8328
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard