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Army Spc. Damon LeGrand, 27, Clairemont; dies in ambush of convoy

July 29, 2007|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Damon LeGrand, a former Mormon missionary with fiery red hair and a passion for the outdoors, had accomplished several goals when his Army unit was dispatched to Iraq last year.

The San Diego native had married, started a family and was serving as a military police officer, a launching point for a possible career in law enforcement.

Assigned to help train Iraq's new police force, the specialist was killed June 12 when insurgents ambushed his convoy with anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire in Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad. He was 27.

"I always told him, 'Don't be a sheep, be a leader.' And he took that to heart. He did that in the Army. He did that in his life," LeGrand's father, Donald, said from his home in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

LeGrand grew up in San Diego's Clairemont neighborhood, graduated from Clairemont High School in 1995 and later served a two-year Mormon mission in Utah.

He joined the Army in 2005 and was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

While he was stationed in Iraq, LeGrand's wife, Ashley, gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Kelsie, now 7 months old. He never met her. The couple's older daughter, Moira, is 2.

LeGrand died about six weeks before he was to return to Idaho, where he, his family and his parents had moved a few years ago. He planned to go hunting and fishing with his father, to see Kelsie for the first time and to help his wife purchase a new home.

Ashley LeGrand could not be reached, but she posted several messages about her husband's death on her page.

"We had so many plans, and none of them will happen. We were going to have 10 babies. We were going to grow old and gray together. Now what am I supposed to do?" she wrote. "Life isn't supposed to go on without him. And yet I have no choice. It does. And I have to. I have to take care of his legacy: our beautiful baby girls."

When he lived in Clairemont, LeGrand enjoyed roller-blading and watching football games with friends. He used to work at a local miniature golf course and family entertainment center.

"He was just a super guy," his father said. "He was fun-loving, but also serious. He was serious about church and his mission work. He had quite a few girls chasing him too. I wonder why? That's what happens when you're good."

Since his death, commendations, tributes and letters of condolence have flooded in to LeGrand's family. They have come from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, from the White House, from Army leaders. The governor ordered flags at all state buildings to fly at half-staff.

"They're still coming in. But they're just paper. They're not Damon. I pretty much miss him a lot," his father said. "We had plans. I wish he was here."

On her MySpace page, Ashley LeGrand wrote that it had been nine months since she last saw her husband and that she had been counting down the days until she would see him again.

"What lesson do I have to learn from this that couldn't have been learned some other way? Why did Damon have to die now and not 50 years from now?" she wrote.

"I'm afraid that I'll forget how much I love him, how it felt to lie next to him, how he made me laugh, how he smelled, anything and everything about our short time together."

In addition to his wife, daughters and father, LeGrand is survived by his mother, Glenna; a brother, Michael; and two sisters, Emily and Meghan.

"It was a pretty short life," his father said. "But I know he's in a better place and he's probably doing exactly what he was supposed to do. Only now he's doing it in heaven instead of [on] Earth, trying to help people. He was doing that over there: trying to help people."


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