Soldier's Career Dreams Are Cut Short

Alex and Stacy Fuller

Alex and Stacy Fuller on their wedding day, Oct. 16, 2004, with her parents, Irena and Dmitry Zinov. Courtesy of Irena Zinov hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Irena Zinov

Army Sgt. Alex Fuller will be laid to rest Tuesday on Cape Cod. He died after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle outside Baghdad. Fuller had hoped that his military service would lead to a later career as a police officer.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The family of U.S. Army Sergeant Alex Fuller will bury him later today on Cape Cod. The 21-year-old had turned down a safer job as a radio operator to go on dangerous patrols with his buddies. He died when a roadside bomb in Baghdad detonated near his vehicle. As you know, we stop on this program to remember many of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And today, we have a report from Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR.

Unidentified woman #1: What are these? (Unintelligible)

Unidentified woman #2: (Unintelligible) that you put on your shoulder.

CURT NICKISCH: At 19 years old and slight, Stacy Fuller is unsteady with the weight of the child she's carrying, due in two months. She just bought baby clothes and she's showing her mother and a friend what she got.

Ms. STACY FULLER: Oh, daddy's little girl?

Unidentified woman #2: Oh, yeah. (Unintelligible)

NICKISCH: Stacy is also reeling from the weight of losing her husband. She says Alex was looking forward to being a dad. He'd hoped for a boy, but didn't mind when he found out they were having a girl.

Ms. FULLER: He's like that's all right. He said, I'll take her fishing and play for ball with her and turn her into a tomboy.

NICKISCH: Stacy and Alex met at a dance. He was 15. She was 13. Her parents, Ukrainian immigrants, knew something was up from the hours she spent on the phone each evening. Irena Zinov remembers meeting Alex.

Ms. IRENA ZINOV (Mother of Stacy Fuller): He was very shy. He was afraid that we're not going to like him or we're not going to let Stacy be his friend. But we liked him from the very first.

NICKISCH: Alex had had a very difficult childhood and was living with his best friend at the time. Eventually, the Zinovs invited him to move in with them, where he had his own room. Alex liked telling 20-minute long stories; no one could tell if they were true. He also liked writing rap music. Once the family was looking at a house for sale, Alex brought a video camera. Slouching his broad shoulders under a sports jersey, he pretended he was a rap star showing off his crib to a TV crew.

(Soundbite of video recording)

Sergeant ALEX FULLER (U.S. Army): Now this is done in 24-karat gold. All right? Feel that. That's real gold. Bam!

NICKISCH: For all his silliness, Alex was fearless. His hobby was boxing and he trained with his future father in law, Dmitry Zinov. They sparred once a week. Towards the end of each fight, Alex would give in out of respect. When Alex asked for Stacy's hand, Dmitry said yes.

Mr. DMITRY ZINOV (Father of Stacy Fuller): And I was so happy. This was made me so happy. I knew him better than anybody else, like he's member of our family. And I was so proud, so proud of my daughter.

NICKISCH: The qualities the endeared Alex to his in-laws also served him well in the Army, where he quickly rose in the ranks. First a tour in South Korea, then Iraq. After three months in Baghdad, Sergeant Alex Fuller was in the lead vehicle of a convoy when a roadside bomb killed him, January 25th.

At home on Cape Cod, Stacy Fuller says her husband wanted to retire from the Army after Iraq. She says Alex planned to go into the police force on the Cape. They had been looking at houses.

Ms. FULLER: He was a caring and loving guy who couldn't wait to be a dad and spend more time on the family. You know, he was just a regular guy waiting to have a regular life.

NICKISCH: Their baby, due in April, is going to be named Alicia. Alex liked that name for being similar to his. After the funeral, Stacey and her parents will remodel Alex's room. It's going to be Alicia's now, the baby room.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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