Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Alan E. McPeek killed in ambush

There is never a good time to lose a loved one at war, but for the family of Army Spc. Alan McPeek, fate seemed especially cruel.

The 20-year-old Tucsonan was killed in action Friday on his last day in Iraq — which also happened to be his mother's birthday.

McPeek's family had been planning his welcome home party when word came that the young combat engineer, and the replacement he'd been training, died together in Ramadi last Friday, hit by enemy forces with small-arms fire.

"It hurts so bad," the soldier's mother, 42-year-old Navy veteran Rose Doyle, said late Monday, shortly after the Defense Department announced the deaths.

"I would like for our elected people to stop talking and stop debating, and do something, please, do something. Because it's getting worse over there, and my son saw that it was getting worse," she said.

McPeek, a 2004 graduate of Mountain View High School, was the 27th service member with Southern Arizona ties to be claimed by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was the fifth former Mountain View student felled, a sad distinction for the local high school that has seen more war casualties than any other.

Since the weekend, friends and relatives have been converging on the family's Northwest Side home, many travelling from out of town to show their support.

"This is so devastating that, without them, I just don't know what we'd do," Doyle said.

"We're just kind of stunned by this whole thing," added her husband, Kevin Doyle.

Kevin Doyle said McPeek enlisted at age 17 because "he decided he didn't like what was going on over there and he wanted to make a difference."

Asked if McPeek felt he had made a difference, family members said it was hard for the soldier to think so, since he'd spent most of his time at an outpost near Ramadi that was such a hotbed of insurgent activity it had once been used as an al-Qaida hideout.

"He was in a very dangerous place," Kevin Doyle said. "He didn't see a lot of good happening there. He saw a lot of bad things going on."

McPeek was assigned to the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Giessen, Germany.

In his high school years, he may have seemed an unlikely candidate for the regimentation of military life. McPeek was a nonconformist given to flamboyant self-expression, family members said.

"He probably went through three different hair colors, and the styles went from long to spiky. One time it was gold, another time it was almost pure white.

"At his going away party, his friends and family took turns cutting off locks of his hair, getting him ready for his first buzz cut," Kevin Doyle recalled.

But the Army seemed to agree with McPeek in many ways, and he was about to be promoted to sergeant when he died, family members said.

McPeek worked at an Eegees on the Northwest Side during high school, and was involved in Pop Warner football for several years, they said.

"He had hundreds and hundreds of friends. He was just loved by everybody," Kevin Doyle said. "He was a joker. He always had a smile on his face."

Many were pals from his Mountain View days, Kevin Doyle said in a posting on McPeek's page on

"Every time he was home it was like a Mountain View reunion. Many of you have been in our home, and it was always very clear to me that he had chosen good kids to be friends with. You all are the reason he so wanted to get the hell out of Iraq," he wrote in a message to the fallen soldier's friends.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but McPeek will be laid to rest in Tucson, where he had lived since age 2, his family said. He was born in Hawaii while his mother served in the Navy there. He has a 13-year-old sister.

"We were offered the choice of a burial at Arlington National Cemetery," Kevin Doyle said. "But we chose to bring him home."

From the Star