Staff Sgt. LeRoy E. Alexander was to return home in just two weeks from Afghanistan, where he was an Army Special Forces engineer.
Instead, his pregnant wife in Fayetteville, N.C., and his family in Dale City are mourning Alexander's death, finding comfort only in knowing that he died doing what he loved.
"I guess I can be grateful for that," said Reggie Alexander, recalling how his older brother joined the Army shortly after graduating from C.D. Hylton High School in 1997. "But so many people will miss him."
Alexander, 27, was one of two Special Forces soldiers killed Friday in Afghanistan when a homemade bomb detonated near his vehicle not far from their forward operating base in Afghanistan's southeastern region. Also killed was Capt. Charles D. Robinson, 29, of Haddon Heights, N.J. No further details were available yesterday.
The men were with the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
Alexander had wanted to be in the military since he was a little boy, said his father, Ronald E. Alexander, a former Marine.
"I want to be just like you," he recalled his oldest son telling him.
Instead of joining the Marines, in August 1997, LeRoy Alexander entered the Army. In October 2002, he began more than two years of intensive training to become a Special Forces engineer sergeant.
He was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group in June 2004 and then deployed to Afghanistan.
He returned to the United States on home leave in January. His wife, Marissa, is expecting twins, a boy and a girl, his father said. Alexander's mother, Felecia, traveled to Fayetteville to be with her daughter-in-law after the Army notified the family of her son's death.
In retrospect, Reggie Alexander said, he believes his brother sensed he might not return alive.
"He was scared to go back," he said. "But he had to. He loved what he was doing. He was the best at it. He always finished at the top of his class. It was what his calling was. But he was also scared."
Alexander's awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.