Friday, May 05, 2006

Army Pfc. Brian M. Moquin Jr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Brian M. Moquin Jr., 19, of Worcester, Mass.

Pfc. Moquin was assigned to the 71st Cavalry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum N.Y.; died May 5 when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was traveling on crashed during combat operations east of Abad, Afghanistan, in the Kunar province. Also killed were: Spc. David N. Timmons Jr., Spc. Justin L. O’Donohoe, Sgt. Jeffery S. Wiekamp, Sgt. John C. Griffith, Sgt. Bryan A. Brewster, Staff Sgt. Christopher T. Howick, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher B. Donaldson, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric W. Totten and Lt. Col. Joseph J. Fenty.

War ends a creative life
Worcester man, 19, volunteered for dangerous duty

WORCESTER— Easter Sunday was the last time Tracy A. Vaillancourt heard the voice of her 19-year-old son, Brian M. Moquin, a U.S. Army infantry scout and private first class who died with nine other soldiers when a military helicopter crashed in a remote region of Afghanistan Friday.

It was around 2 a.m., and Pfc. Moquin was calling on a scratchy satellite telephone to wish her a belated happy birthday and talk about attending her wedding, planned for the fall.

“I’ll be OK, Mom,” he told his mother. “Don’t worry about me.”

While they had supported his decision to enlist last March, Ms. Vaillancourt and her fiancé, Peter Bissonnette, a Worcester police officer, had urged the teenager to choose a less risky assignment.

The free spirit who loved to skateboard and go to rock concerts, and kept a scrapbook he called his “bible” stuffed with his drawings, poems and photos, was firm. He would follow the dangerous, and, in his mind, more adventurous, path of providing advance reconnaissance for combat units.

“I pleaded with him not to do it,” Ms. Vaillancourt told the Telegram & Gazette, choking back sobs during an interview yesterday at the home she shares with Mr. Bissonnette, as about a dozen family members and friends grieved with her. “But he said ‘I can’t sit behind a desk.’ ”

Pfc. Moquin died 64 days before he would have turned 20.

The former student at Millbury High School and Shrewsbury High School was on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in a military offensive seeking al-Qaida and Taliban militants near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. The aircraft went down in what authorities said was an accident.

Army officials did not release the names of the 10 victims until yesterday because of difficulty in identifying some of the bodies. Some families had confirmed earlier that their kin were among the dead, all of whom were from Fort Drum, N.Y., home base of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry.

Pfc. Moquin was among seven soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment. The other three were part of the 71st Cavalry Regiment. The soldiers had been deployed to Afghanistan from January to March as part of a detachment of 5,800 10th Mountain Division soldiers now in the country.

Family members said a funeral likely will be held in the city next week and Pfc. Moquin will be buried here after his remains arrive from Fort Drum.

Ms. Vaillancourt, a manager for a Shrewsbury company that sells seafood display cases, was at a Chicago trade show Sunday morning when she learned of the death of her only child. An officer called her on her cell phone.

Distraught, she flew back to Boston and was met at the airport by an Army sergeant and chaplain, both in full dress uniform. Earlier, the officers had gone to her home with news of her son’s death.

“He was too young,” Ms. Vaillancourt said. “He just wanted to do something to make everybody proud. I’m very proud of him.”

“It was a horrific sight when they came up to my house,” Mr. Bissonnette said, describing opening the door, seeing the officers and realizing immediately that something terrible must have happened to Ms. Vaillancourt’s son.

Pfc. Moquin was a sensitive young man whom Mr. Bissonnette described as “both rebellious and patriotic.” Joining the military and taking and passing the general equivalency diploma test to do so were a way to straighten himself out, Mr. Bissonnette and Ms. Vaillancourt said.

He had a taste for risk and the energy and creativity to do unusual things, like make his own tattoo gun and give himself a tattoo, his mother said. He and his friends would take off for a faraway rock concert with little gas in their car and even less money in their pockets. Her son would say that if the car ran out of gas, he would skateboard to the show. He also loved the music and movies of Frank Sinatra, his mother said.

“Everything that could possibly be dangerous, he was into doing,” Ms. Vaillancourt said.

Pfc. Moquin had from a young age been interested in joining the military. Among the many photographs and keepsakes Ms. Vaillancourt had of her son was a photograph of him as a 5-year-old dressed in military fatigues.

“I sat with him many times before he left,” Mr. Bissonnette said. “He knew he was doing the right thing.”

In a recent letter Pfc. Moquin penned to his mother from the combat zone, he wrote: “I’ve grown up a lot here and I’m going to try my damn best to make you proud of me.”

“I’m doing the best I can to be the best soldier,” he continued. “I miss ya. Love, your son, Brian.”

Ms. Vaillancourt, 36, had raised her son as a single parent. He was born in Worcester and moved with his mother to Shrewsbury when he was 6. They moved back to Worcester when he was about 16, and he enrolled in high school in Millbury, where both sets of his grandparents, Ernest and Catherine Vaillancourt and Elsie and Walter Moquin, live.

Pfc. Moquin’s art teacher at Millbury High, Gail M. Fairbanks, said he was a talented student in the studio art program.

The tall, thin young man was prolific at drawing, printmaking and poetry, she said. She said she hopes to put some of his drawings on display at the school to commemorate him.

“He was a kid who always walked the road less traveled,” Ms. Fairbanks said. “He was talented, adventurous, creative.”

Aside from his interest in joining the military, he had plans to go to art college or become a crab fisherman in Alaska, Ms. Vaillancourt said.

“He had the adventure spirit,” she said.

Friends of Pfc. Moquin have posted messages and photos about him on the Web site, of which he was a member. Some of the remembrances mentioned his affinity for rock music. Pfc. Moquin played the guitar and sang in a band described as playing “grunge” music, his mother’s fiancĂ© said.

“R.I.P. I love you Brian. Sorry it had to end like this,” one Myspace contributor wrote. “I know you’ll still be checking your myspace in your grave because that’s how you are. Send me a letter sometime while I’m overseas. You were a ridiculously great friend and I will never forget you.”

Pfc. Moquin attended Millbury High in 2002 and 2003 after transferring from Shrewsbury High, school officials said.

He did not graduate from Millbury High, Principal Anne Steele said. Pfc. Moquin received his GED from Quinsigamond Community College before entering the Army, his mother said.

“It was only me and Brian his whole life,” Ms. Vaillancourt said. “I did everything with him.”

Army Pfc. Brian M. Moquin Jr was killed in action on 05/05/06.

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