Saturday, April 14, 2007

Army SSgt. Brandon L. Wallace

Remember Our Heroes

Army SSgt. Brandon L. Wallace, 27, of St. Louis, Mo.

SSgt. Wallace was assigned to the 1451st Transportation Company, 13th Support Command, Iraq.; died April 14, 2007 in Fallujah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Also killed was Sgt. Joshua A. Schmit.

Suburban Journals -- Brandon Wallace was almost home.

Just two weeks away from the end of combat duty, the Jefferson County native and U.S. Army staff sergeant was killed last week by a roadside bomb in Fallujah, Iraq.

He was 27.

Monday, his family gathered to remember his life, passing around photos of the smiling soldier.

They also had a chance to hear his words one final time. Following his death, his mother, Robin Wallace, discovered letters Brandon had written to his sisters and parents prior to his deployment.

The family had never read them before.

In the letters, Wallace prays for his sisters, Rachael Tucker and Sarah Beth Wallace, and appeals for the strength to serve his country.

"I can do it because God is with me," he wrote. "God has given me not the spirit of fear but of power."

His family received news of his death Saturday.

After receiving a call on his cell phone, Brandon's father, Rick Wallace, was asked to leave immediately for Robin Wallace's Festus home.

The men identified themselves as police.

While en route Wallace realized the men were military police calling about his son.

"It started hitting me at the Pevely exit that it had something to do with Brandon," he said. "It was the longest drive. We didn't want to get out of the car. We knew by the look on their face before they said anything."

"You feel detached from your body," Robin Wallace said. "You're in disbelief."

His family said they have been told Wallace has been posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and has qualified to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Wallace was engaged to a fellow soldier, Army Spc. Dawn Urbina.

The pair served in the same unit.

Urbina is expected to travel back to Crystal City with Wallace's body, when she will meet his family for the first time.

Wallace, who graduated from the St. Charles Police Academy in 2005, put his career on hold after being recalled into the army in August of last year.

Though he had previously served in Kosovo, his family was shaken by his impending departure.

On the day he left, Robin Wallace bade him a tearful goodbye.

"She said come back home to your mama," Tucker said. "But this time he didn't say OK. He went out the door crying."

Rick Wallace said he felt apprehensive about his son's departure.

"When I took him to the airport I knew," he said. "I had taken him when he was (deployed) to Kosovo but it was different this time."

Rick Wallace said his son had a terrifying nightmare about being killed by a roadside bomb shortly before his death.

"He had a dream that he was on a road in Fallujah and felt like he was going to die," Rick Wallace said.

Shaken by the dream, Wallace woke his fiancee.

"She told him it was just a coincidence," Tucker said. "But it was his destiny to be a hero."

Jeff Klos taught Brandon at Crystal City High School.

"We called him and his friends 'The Cowboys,'" Klos said. "They always had cowboy hats, buckles and lassoes. If they couldn't lasso another kid they'd lasso a truck.

"Brandon was exceptional and everybody was very proud of what he turned out to be."

Bryan Smyth, a minister and friend, recalled Wallace's generosity.

"When my father died Brandon stayed with me until I buried my dad," he said. "He pressed my suits, he made me dinner, he prayed with me. He did a lot of neat things like that. That was just Brandon."

A funeral for Wallace is expected to be held sometime next week at Living Faith Church in Festus.

Army SSgt. Brandon L. Wallace was killed in action on 4/14/07.

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