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MILITARY DEATHS

Army Pfc. Joel K. Brattain, 21; Killed in Roadside Blast

March 21, 2004|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

Joel Brattain wasn't sure what he wanted to do when he graduated from Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda three years ago.

College wasn't for him, his brother said. But he had an outdoors streak, and between delivering pizza and working at his mother's graphics company, he would head for the ski slopes and the beckoning wilderness. "He loved fishing. He was a very good snowboarder. He loved camping and hiking," said his 27-year-old brother, Kris. "He did everything full-bore or nothing."

Joel Brattain moved to Lake Tahoe for about a year and a half with his girlfriend. "He was still trying to figure out what he wanted to do," his brother said.

Last March, Joel Brattain joined the Army and became a paratrooper. Last fall, he married his high school sweetheart, Andrea Del Campo, on the sand in Laguna Beach. In January, he shipped off to Iraq. "It was a maturing process," his brother said. "He had gone off adventuring and this and that, and it was time for him to mature. He was becoming a man."

On March 13, Army Pfc. Joel K. Brattain, 21, and two other soldiers were killed in Baghdad when their vehicle was struck by the blast of a roadside explosive. The three were with the 1st Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Kris Brattain said his brother's decision to join the Army probably was driven both by pragmatism and patriotism. "First and foremost, he loved Andrea. He really wanted to provide for her," he said.

But also, "9/11 touched him like it touched everybody," he said, pointing out that his brother had graduated months before the terrorist attacks. "When you become 18 and you're out of school, I think your eyes open to the world, and you ask yourself, 'What am I going to do with my life?' "

Whatever doubts Joel Brattain had about what he wanted to do in life, he knew "he wanted to make an impact," his brother said. "He loved this country and he believed in what he did."

Being a paratrooper was a logical step for someone who loved adventure and the outdoors, his brother said. "He wasn't going to be a computer technician," Kris Brattain said. "He was a paratrooper. He had his wings and he loved it."

He said he would miss a brother who tagged along with him for much of his life. "He was my little brother, and we were close our whole lives," Kris Brattain said. "He didn't let things get to him, because you come to find out life is short. He lived life to the fullest."

In addition to his wife and brother, Brattain is survived by his father, Gary; his mother, Elaine Clark; and a 9-year-old half brother, Brandon Clark.

Joel Brattain will be buried with full military honors Wednesday at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.

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