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Greenfield

ConVal grad killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan

  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graduated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Brandon Garabrant graducated from ConVal High School, one day after completing Marine boot camp.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

“I love you, Mom. Headed to bed now. Tell everyone I love them.” These were U.S. Marine Brandon Garabrant’s last words for his mother, Jessie Garabrant, on Thursday.

“He ended it with a smiley face,” she said.

Garabrant, 19, who grew up in Greenfield, was killed Friday morning in Afghanistan, just one year after he graduated from ConVal High School, wearing a Marine Corps T-shirt under his graduation robe.

“He was making the most of it over there,” Jessie, a Rindge resident, said Saturday. “I'd been talking to him just about every day. He was even talking about transferring to a different job, where he might see more action. He was always working, to take the next step up the ladder.”

Garabrant died in a roadside bombing, along with two others and a military canine, according to Jessie.

Garabrant was a member of the 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C. According to a media advisory from the division’s public affairs office, Garabrant, Staff Sgt. David Stewart, 34, of Stafford, Va., and Lance Cpl. Adam Wolff, 25, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died “as a result of a hostile incident while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.” The statement provided no other details about the events that led to the tragedy.

The three deaths come as the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is in the process of winding down. President Barack Obama recently announced that the U.S. plans to reduce the number of troops in the country to 9,800 and end U.S. combat missions by the end of this year. All troops are expected to be withdrawn by 2016. The mission of troops that remain will be to provide training and support counter-terrorism efforts by the Afghan military, according to White House announcements.

Garabrant was a combat engineer who had been promoted to Lance Corporal on Dec. 1, 2013, according to the Marine Corps statement. He had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Jessie said Saturday that she had been informed of her son's death on Friday by two Marines who came to her home. She said Brandon, who held the rank of Lance Corporal, was deployed to Afghanistan in April. He had completed combat engineering training and had been assigned to duty on convoys that sweep roads for mines.

She said the Marines told her that Brandon was serving as the turret gunner on a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle that hit an improvised explosive device. She was told that two other Marines also died, along with a Marine canine that was in the tank-like vehicle.

On Monday, Jessie was in Delaware, awaiting a plane that would be bringing her son’s body home.

She said she’d heard from other members of Garabrant’s platoon.

“They told me his crew was going to assist another crew that had been under fire,” she said. “One of my questions was whether he had suffered. I was told he died instantly.”

Garabrant graduated from ConVal on June 8, 2013, one day after he graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, S.C. He had completed his academic work early and had spent the previous 13 weeks in boot camp. Garabrant and his family flew overnight to New Hampshire after the Parris Island ceremony so he could attend his high school graduation. His mother, Jessie , and his sister, Mykala Garabrant, shared the momentous day with him. Garabrant had asked to wear his Marine uniform rather than a graduation robe, and when that request was denied by ConVal officials, his story drew national attention, which surprised the young soldier.

“I respect the decision,” Garabrant said after the high school ceremony last year. “I really had no clue what had been going on. I didn’t think it would get as much notice as it did.”

ConVal Principal Brian Pickering made the decision not to allow Garabrant to graduate in uniform, saying the ceremony was intended to celebrate the accomplishments of the class as a whole, not just one individual.

Pickering’s ruling was supported by Marine public relations officer Sgt. Bryan Lett, one of two U.S. Marines who attended the graduation in uniform. Lett wrote, “The U.S, Marine Corps is proud to have him amongst our ranks, but support the school’s decision to have Pfc. Garabrant walk across the stage in a cap and gown, as this is recognition of his accomplishments at ConVal and the final chapter of his high school career.”

On Saturday, Pickering issued the following statement about Garabrant: "On behalf of the entire ConVal community, I extend my deepest sympathy to Brandon's family and friends. We are all shocked and deeply saddened by his passing and we are incredibly grateful for his service to our country."

The first official word of Garabrant’s death came in a statement issued Friday by Gov. Maggie Hassan, which was followed by statements from other officials.

“The entire state of New Hampshire is devastated by the tragic loss of Lance Corporal Brandon Garabrant, who was bravely serving his nation in Afghanistan. Our service men and women courageously sacrifice every day to protect their fellow citizens and defend the enduring value of freedom that is our very core, and in doing so, Lance Corporal Garabrant made the ultimate sacrifice,” Hassan said.

Her statement continued, “As a volunteer firefighter and dedicated Marine, Lance Corporal Garabrant was committed to serving his fellow citizens, and he was tragically taken from us far too soon. It is our responsibility as Granite Staters and Americans to come together to support his family and his community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lance Corporal Garabrant's family, as well as those of the other American heroes who were lost, and we will be forever grateful for his selfless service.”

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte took the Senate floor Monday to speak in honor of Garabrant and offer support to his family: “In the difficult days and weeks ahead, my thoughts and prayers will remain with his mother, Jessie, and his father, John, as well as his brother, Jacob, and sister, Mykala.”

‘All about helping’

During his high school years, Garabrant worked at Touchstone Farm in Temple and was a member of the Temple Volunteer Fire Department.

Mike Connolly, a Temple firefighter and former chief of the department, said Garabrant didn't live in Temple, but he worked in town and asked to join the Fire Department there when he was 17. Garabrant became a full-time member at 18.

“He would do anything for anybody,” Connolly said on Saturday. “Whatever anyone needed, he'd do it and more. He was a good, bright young kid. It's a big loss.”

Temple Fire Chief George Clark described Garabrant as “a remarkable young man.”

“He was all about helping people,” Clark said on Saturday. “No matter what needed doing, he was always the first guy there.”

Clark, who is an ex-Marine, said Garabrant would get in touch when he came home on leave to see how he could help the Fire Department.

“He would always call me,” Clark recalled, “and say 'Hey, I need a pager.' I'd tell him he was supposed to relax when he goes on leave. His dedication was unbelievable.”

Garabrant became enthused with firefighting as a member of the Peterborough Fire Department’s Explorer post while he was in high school.

“He was very dedicated,” recalled Peterborough Fire Dept. Lt. Brad Winters on Tuesday. “He was a very active member, always here after school going on ambulance and fire calls. He was very motivated.”

Winters said Garabrant had a plan in mind for his life after high school.

“Ever since came on, he always talked about joining the Marine Corps. He was very proud of being a Marine,” Winters said.

Amanda Marie Hadley of Wilton, who met Garabrant through family friends, recalled her friend as “an amazing guy” in an interview Saturday.

“Brandon was the kind of guy that if you needed help he was there, no questions asked. He would give you the shirt off of his back,” Hadley said. “He could always make someone laugh if they were really down. His family and friends meant everything to him. He was like a brother to me and I will always remember him. I will forever hold Brandon in my heart. ”

Hadley said Garabrant loved whatever he was doing at the time.

“He was an amazing firefighter. Firefighting was his life,” she said. “He loved being a Marine and told me, 'Being a Marine was my destiny.'"

Peterborough Police Chief Scott Guinard said Garabrant had been an active member of the department's Explorer post and had been a friend of Guinard's son, who is also a Marine.

“I remember him as a genuinely polite young gentleman,” Guinard said on Saturday. “Getting into the Marines is itself quite an accomplishment. We are all very proud of him.”

A family mourns

Her son had always had a passion for the military, according to Jessie Garabrant.

Shortly before his ConVal graduation, during the discussion over whether he'd be allowed to wear his uniform at the ceremony, she told the Ledger-Transcript about Brandon's commitment to military service: “This is something [Brandon's] always dreamed of. His birthday is on Veterans’ Day. He’s always been service oriented. He loves to help people and he’s always been very patriotic. It became very clear that his future was with the Marines. He enlisted on the day he met with the Marine recruiter. It was a no-brainer.”

On Monday, Jessie said Brandon’s body will be returned to New Hampshire some time this week, but the timing is unknown. She said the family is hoping to arrange a memorial service, perhaps at ConVal High School, and Brandon will eventually be buried at the N.H. State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

Reporters Dylan Fisher and Ashley Saari contributed to this story.

First to the Marines lost in battle, Semper Fi brothers and Gods speed. Second, to the families of our fallen Marines, you each have my heartfelt condolences. Each of these young men volunteered for military service and each of them chose to be Marines. That is a title few people attempt and even fewer can claim. You should be proud of each of them not only for their sacrifice but also for their beliefs and their willingness to stand up and fight for those beliefs. Marines are still alive because of these young men. I regret I never knew Lance Corporal Garabrant and the other Marines lost today, but I am proud of the job they did and I am proud to call each of them my brother. Now to Principal Pickering. As you no doubt have read in these articles ConVal High School will always be known for not allowing this Marine to wear his Marine Corps uniform when he graduated from your school. I understand is was because he wasn't supposed to stand out. Well he did stand out! He stood out not for the clothing he wore but for the character he possessed. As I read it, his entire life was about service to other people. That appears to be the way he lived . . . . and the way he died. For him it was a matter of honor. Marines have stood for honor since November 10, 1775 and they always will. Men and women like this should stand out as a shining example of what other people should strive for. Semper Fi!

First to the Marines lost in battle, Semper Fi brothers and Gods speed. Second, to the families of our fallen Marines, you each have my heartfelt condolences. Each of these young men volunteered for military service and each of them chose to be Marines. That is a title few people attempt and even fewer can claim. You should be proud of each of them not only for their sacrifice but also for their beliefs and their willingness to stand up and fight for those beliefs. Marines are still alive because of these young men. I regret I never knew Lance Corporal Garabrant and the other Marines lost today, but I am proud of the job they did and I am proud to call each of them my brother. Now to Principal Pickering. As you no doubt have read in these articles ConVal High School will always be known for not allowing this Marine to wear his Marine Corps uniform when he graduated from your school. I understand is was because he wasn't supposed to stand out. Well he did stand out! He stood out not for the clothing he wore but for the character he possessed. As I read it, his entire life was about service to other people. That appears to be the way he lived . . . . and the way he died. For him it was a matter of honor. Marines have stood for honor since November 10, 1775 and they always will. Men and women like this should stand out as a shining example of what other people should strive for. Semper Fi!

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