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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Marine dies after Afghanistan blast

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer


About 900 troops with Kane'ohe Bay's 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment left for Afghanistan in early January. Lance Cpl. Billy D. Brixey Jr.'s death marks the first in the deployment for the battalion, which suffered 46 casualties during a 10-month deployment to Iraq that ended in April. In one tragedy, a Jan. 26, 2005, helicopter crash in western Iraq killed 26 Marines and a sailor. The accident stands as the deadliest crash since the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003.

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A 21-year-old Hawai'i-based Marine on his first combat deployment died three weeks after getting to Afghanistan, family and officials said.

Lance Cpl. Billy D. Brixey Jr., from Ferriday, La., died Friday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from wounds received two days before when a roadside bomb hit his convoy.

"His daddy is taking it real, real hard," said Joe Brixey, the Marine's grandfather.

Brixey's leg had to be amputated and he went into cardiac arrest while being transferred for medical care, Joe Brixey said yesterday by phone.

"They explained it all to us," he said.

The Marine, attached to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, had told his family in Ferriday, a community of about 9,000 people, about frequent mortar and roadside bomb attacks.

Security has been heightened across much of Afghanistan after an unprecedented spate of 20 suicide bombings and dozens of roadside blasts in recent months, the Associated Press reported.

It was the first death in Afghanistan for a Hawai'i battalion that was hard-hit in Iraq in late 2004 and early 2005. Eight 1/3 Marines were killed in a suicide car bomb attack, 26 Marines and one sailor perished in a helicopter crash, and 11 others also were killed most of them in what has become known as the Battle of Fallujah.

Today at 1 p.m., meanwhile, a memorial service will be held for four Hawai'i Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment who were killed in Afghanistan between late June and late September.

The combat memorial, with four sets of desert boots and upturned M-16 rifles topped by helmets to represent the fallen, will be held at the Pacific War Memorial on the Kane'ohe Bay base.

According to the Pentagon, 2,239 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq and 208 have been killed in the more than four-year war in Afghanistan.

The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine "Lava Dogs" of about 900 Marines officially took over for their Hawai'i counterparts with the 2nd battalion on Jan. 15 in Jalalabad near the restive border with Pakistan.

The Marines conduct joint patrols with Afghan security forces and the majority of Afghans welcome U.S. forces, Marines with the unit have said. But they also fully recognize that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place.

"There have been some intermittent attacks within some of our areas of operation from the insurgents against us with IEDs (improvised explosive devices), RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), mortars and small arms fire since we took over in country," Staff Sgt. Jason Butler, a 1/3 assistant operations chief, told the Kane'ohe Bay base newspaper.

The attackers prefer to hit and run rather than stand and fight against the Marines, Butler said.

Brixey was assigned to Combat Service Support Group 3 at Kane'ohe Bay as a Humvee and truck mechanic, but was attached to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines in Afghanistan.

The 6-foot-3 Marine, whose nickname was "B.J." and played football at Vidalia High School, was able to call his family almost every day from Afghanistan.

"He would call us and tell us about them taking fire mortars and I think every night he had to go out on patrol," said his grandfather. "He said he was ready to come home. The people over there would shout at them and holler at them and say, 'Americans go home.' "

"He just told us about all the attacks," said James Brixey, 19, the Marine's brother. "It was pretty bad."

Two days before he was wounded, the lead vehicle in a convoy he was in was hit by a mortar or roadside bomb, and so was the truck behind him, his grandfather said.

"Two vehicles got destroyed on the same patrol," said 67-year-old Joe Brixey, who also lives in Ferriday.

Another Marine also was wounded in the same roadside bombing that led to Billy Brixey's death, but the elder Brixey had no details on the injury.

Joe Brixey said his grandson loved the Corps. He joined right out of high school after a Marine Corps recruiter had visited his high school. He joined the Corps in July 2002 and reported to Hawai'i in June 2003.

"He was a quiet, well-mannered Christian boy," the grandfather said.

Billy Brixey Jr. was married briefly before leaving for Hawai'i. His mother died from cancer when he was young. His funeral services and burial will take place in Ferriday.

"He gave the ultimate sacrifice. That was his choice," the grandfather said. "I heard his daddy tell him, 'B.J., before you sign them papers, think long and hard.' His daddy didn't want him to get in there."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.