Ronald Alexander recalls seeing his wife, Felecia, on the telephone, sobbing.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"Lee's dead," she said.
That's how he learned that their son, Staff Sgt. LeRoy Alexander of Dale City, had been killed in Afghanistan.
Alexander, 27, was nearly finished with his assignment in Afghanistan when he was killed. He and Capt. Charles D. Robinson, 29, of Haddon Heights, N.J., died June 3 at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E when their convoy vehicle was struck by a bomb.
Alexander and his wife, Marissa, were expecting twins -- a boy and a girl -- and he was looking forward to coming home and providing for them.
Yesterday, his wife, parents and more than 100 friends and relatives gathered to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery. Against a sea of white headstones, Marissa Alexander cleaved to her womb the flag from her husband's silver coffin. Alexander's Special Forces compatriots offered condolences to his father and mother.
A religious man, Ronald Alexander said he finds solace in knowing that his son is not lost to him forever. "Once I leave here, I know I'll see him again. And he'll see me again," he said.
Entering the service to further his education and career, Alexander was a focused and ambitious young man with a steadfast faith in God. He and Robinson were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
"He was trying to make the most of what he was," Felecia Alexander said. "Being in the Special Forces, that shows that Lee always liked a challenge, he didn't want to be the status quo. He didn't just settle. He was just drawn to whatever was challenging."
Alexander was athletic, playing basketball and football at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge. He was serious about sports and would have liked to have played professionally, family members said. After high school, his mother wanted him to attend college, but Alexander thought that the military would give him the academic and career experience to support him and Marissa, his high school sweetheart.
Alexander's younger brother Reggie, 25, played football with him at Hylton. Reggie, the larger of the two, was an offensive lineman and protected LeRoy, a running back. Off the field, however, Reggie remembers his older brother standing up for him.
"We looked out for each other," Reggie Alexander said. "That was heart. My brother's my heart."
Six years ago, LeRoy and Marissa secretly married, and it was more than a year before his family found out. Everyone, nevertheless, congratulated him.
He had wanted children right away, so a few months ago when he found out -- via a phone call -- that he was going to be a father, he was beyond elated.
"I could just feel the radiance over the phone," his mother said. "I could see the smile on his face. . . . That vibration came over the phone. That meant more to him than anything, even more than being in the service, even more than being a Green Beret."
As devout Christians who raised their son as such, the Alexanders are sustained by their faith and the belief that they'll see him in heaven.
Felecia Alexander recalled a letter her son wrote from the field. In it, he described how he had testified to another soldier about Jesus. "Mom," he wrote, "I witnessed to somebody in Christ today. It shocked me. I must be growing in Christ."
Meanwhile, another family buried a son who also had a bright future.
Onlookers wept as soldiers fastidiously folded an American flag and saluted as Lance Cpl. Robert Mininger, 21, of Sellersville, Pa., was laid to rest in the nation's cemetery yesterday morning.
Mininger died June 6 from wounds received as a result of an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Fallujah, Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-8, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Like Alexander, Mininger was looking to his future when he entered the service. After high school, he entered community college, intending to be an engineer. But he soon discovered that his love for computers was the love for a hobby, not a career. So he set his goals higher. He had hoped to work for the FBI or the CIA.
"He wanted more than that in his life," said his father, Thomas Mininger.
When he decided his passion was criminal justice, his academic goals changed.
"He needed more than a four-year college degree to hopefully allow doors to be opened for his future, and that's when he looked into the military."
Mininger's parents were skeptical of his plans to leave school, but after he answered all their questions and reassured them that he would eventually finish his degree, they let him go, realizing that he was growing into a man. When he was deployed to Iraq, "he went with no regrets," Thomas Mininger said. "His passion for life there grew every day."
Gregory, Robert's younger brother, had been considering the Marines and was eager to talk with his brother about it.
"Bob had had a tremendous effect on Gregory's growth and channeling his thoughts," Thomas Mininger said. "It helped me in interacting and raising his brother while he was away.
"We were waiting, somewhat impatiently, for him to come home."
Lance Cpl. Robert Mininger's father, Thomas Mininger, left; girlfriend, Erica Lehneis; brother, Gregory Mininger; mother, Paula Zwillinger; and stepfather, Larry Zwillinger, mourn him at Arlington National Cemetery.