Recalling Staff Sgt. LeRoy Alexander

Staff Sgt. LeRoy Alexander was an Army Special Forces engineer due to return in two weeks to his family in Virginia and North Carolina. He died June 3 in southeastern Afghanistan when his convoy vehicle struck a homemade bomb.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

A staff sergeant from Virginia was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, just weeks before he was due to return home. Staff Sergeant LeRoy Alexander was a Special Forces engineer who grew up in Dale City, Virginia. He was 27 years old. He leaves behind a wife who is pregnant with twins. Nancy Marshall-Genzer has this remembrance.

NANCY MARSHALL-GENZER reporting:

LeRoy Alexander had dreamed of being a soldier since he was a little boy. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ron Alexander, a Marine who served in Vietnam and is now retired. The elder Alexander remembers when his son told him, somewhat apprehensively, that he wanted to join the Army.

Mr. RON ALEXANDER (LeRoy's Father): He said, `But I'm not going to be a Marine.' He said, `I'm going to be in the Army.' I said, `Army?' He said, `Yeah, Dad.'

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARSHALL-GENZER: LeRoy Alexander's parents and brother are sitting in their family room surrounded by a cocoon of friends and relatives reminiscing about how Lee, as they called him, was always something of a daredevil. His kid brother, 25-year-old Reggie Alexander, remembers seeing his brother soar over the handlebars of his bike on a homemade bike ramp when he was about 10.

Mr. REGGIE ALEXANDER (LeRoy's Brother): Yeah, we put this little--a little dirt ramp in the woods behind our elementary school. And he went over it and a stick got caught in the spoke of his tire and it just cut his head from the front to the--all the way to the back.

MARSHALL-GENZER: The family says when the daredevil grew up, he liked jumping out of planes and once dangled from a rope attached to a helicopter for fun. Alexander's mother, Felicia Alexander, says whatever he was doing, he was always a leader, even if that took him into danger. She says it's no surprise that her son was killed while riding in the lead vehicle of a convoy, which was blown up by a homemade bomb.

Mrs. FELICIA ALEXANDER (LeRoy's Mother): He was a team leader. You know, a lot of people looked up to him. I think he more or less wanted to be in front where the action was, because that was just him.

MARSHALL-GENZER: Alexander got a brief break from the action in January. He wanted to see his wife, Marissa, who lives at Ft. Bragg, where he was based. Alexander also visited his family in Dale City. Felicia Alexander remembers wishing she could do something, anything, to extend his visit.

Mrs. ALEXANDER: When he left the last time, I said, `You sure you want to go back out? Just call them and tell--you tell them your mama said that you don't have to come back. I'll give you a note.' And he would just laugh. I guess he was saying, `I wish it was that simple.'

MARSHALL-GENZER: Felicia Alexander is quick to add that her son loved his job. Initially, she wasn't thrilled when he joined the Army, but she supported him. Now she gets support from her church where she's an associate minister.

Mrs. ALEXANDER: If I did not have a strong faith in the Lord, I probably would have lost my mind by now. Yes, I shed tears, because--and they're not for him, because I know he's safe. He's in a better place.

MARSHALL-GENZER: Before he died, Lee Alexander received a chest full of awards, including the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Army Achievement Medal. He was awarded more medals posthumously, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

For NPR News, I'm Nancy Marshall-Genzer.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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