Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Marine Capt. Brandon A. Barrett

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Capt. Brandon A. Barrett, 27, of Marion, Ind.

Capt. Barrett was assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died May 5, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.

Brandon was passionate about serving his country, said Ashley Barrett, 21. "He was not only an amazing big brother, but he's always been a hero to all of us," she said. "Not only was he born a hero, but he died a hero. He died doing what he loved to do."

Barrett was a 2001 graduate of Marion High School and a 2006 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Classmates at Marion said Barrett was very popular and a star on the school's baseball and football teams.

"Brandon was a well-liked person, and I always admired the fact that he was a proud military guy," Brett Nichols said in an e-mail. "He's someone that didn't take our freedoms and liberty here in the United States for granted, as some young adults like us do."

Many close friends took the news of Barrett's death hard. Jason Stambaugh, Pendleton, said Barrett was always smiling and made others feel special.

"Last time we hung out he told me and a few others we are the older brothers he never had," Stambaugh said in an e-mail. "I get to keep that memory. My hero thought of me as family. How special is that?"

He was only 27 years-old. Friends said Brandon Barrett's personality was infectious. "This is so hard. I was in shock just like everybody else and very, very sad. He always had a smile on his face and it's hard not to see him anymore," said friend Lee Contreras.

The 1st Lt. was assigned to the 2nd Marine division based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He graduated Marion High School in 2001 and was a star athlete. Friends say Brandon was popular and stood out on the football and baseball fields.

"He never backed down from anything. There was nothing that Brandon couldn't do. There was no challenge that he couldn't overcome. He took on everything that you put in front of him. He was just such a great guy," said Contreras.

Brandon graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2006, but his friends at home in Marion said he held his Indiana roots dear. "He was who you wanted to be like. He respected people, people respected him. He was just a go-getter," said Contreras.

The letter with instructions about where 1st Lt. Brandon Barrett wanted to be buried told friends back home in Indiana that — even if he didn't talk about it — he understood he might not survive his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

But Kristin Marcuccilli also thought about another letter when she found out the 27-year-old Marine was killed in combat Wednesday — the one he wrote to the parents of the men he would lead on his first tour, promising to take care of their sons. There also was that smile he had when he came home to Marion, Ind., having done just that a couple of years ago.

“The first thing out of his mouth when we went out to dinner is 'Everyone's safe,“’ said Marcuccilli, who went to Marion High School with Barrett. “You never heard a person more passionate about the responsibilities of leading these young men.”

His mother said Friday that she was told he was shot in the chest. As she waited to be taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet her son's remains and escort them back to Marion for burial, his mother, Cindy Barrett, sounded like many moms before her who have been given the news they always hoped would not come — but knew it might.

She worried about her son's safety ever since she received a telephone call in 2001 telling her that her son had been accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy. As the daughter of an Army captain, Cindy Barrett understood that graduation from the military academies led to active duty.

She put those fears on the back burner until months before his 2006 graduation from the Naval Academy, when Barrett excitedly told her he'd been accepted into the Marine Corps and that, as he'd hoped, would be going into the infantry, she said.

“I took a big gulp, told him I was excited (but) when I hung up I probably cried for two hours,” she said.

If Cindy Barrett tried to protect her son from her own worries, she said her son did the same thing with her, the rest of his family and his friends.

“Never once did he second guess his decision or tell me, ‘Mom, I'm scared, this is real.’ Not one time,” she said.

In fact, in all the letters and e-mails he sent to friends like Marcuccilli and Jason Hodge, another high school buddy, besides some minor complaints about the food, there was no talk of fear or questions about whether he made the right choice.

“He chose to do it, he was happy to do it,” said Hodge, to whom Barrett sent the letter — with a copy to Marcuccilli — about where he wanted to be buried. In it, he said he wanted to be buried in Marion and not New Mexico, where he'd lived for part of his boyhood. Even then, Barrett, who Marcuccilli described as a “clown,” kept it light.

“He said don't let my mom take me out to that desert in Albuquerque,” she said, letting herself chuckle for a second.

As she was poised to carry out her son's wishes, Cindy Barrett said Friday couldn't help but think about how she was just a few months from seeing her son again and wonder if his death came with suffering. But she also said there was some comfort knowing her son, who thought about making the military his career or perhaps following an uncle into the Secret Service, was doing what he wanted to do with his life.

“He was passionate about his platoon and what he was doing and what his mission was in this world,” she said.

Friends said the Marine loved his country, fighting for it, and never took his freedom for granted.

Marine Capt. Brandon A. Barrett was killed in action on 5/5/10.

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