Saturday, April 21, 2007

Brandon Wallace remembered

FESTUS — Sgt. Brandon Wallace knew this was going to happen.

He saw it in his dreams.

He prepared for his own death in ways his family never knew until this week when they met for the first time the woman he planned to marry.

Her words gave the Wallace family the same sense of peace about his death that the 27-year-old spent the final few months of his life learning to accept. Advertisement

"It's like we're touching Brandon through this woman," said Rick Wallace, Brandon's father. Sgt. Wallace was killed by a roadside bomb April 14 in Fallujah, Iraq.

Rick and Robin Wallace knew the oldest of their three children would someday become a soldier. As a young boy growing up on 10th Street in Crystal City, "Bud" spent hours playing with his GI Joe's, dressing up as a cowboy and pretending to be a cop.

After he graduated from Crystal City High School in 1998, he enlisted in the Army, serving his three-year active duty contract in Germany and Kosovo. He then went on to a Bible school but didn't finish. Instead, he entered the police academy in St. Charles so he could become a Crystal City police officer.

Just before his December 2005 graduation, the Individual Ready Reserve called him back to duty, and in January 2006, he reported to Fort Benning, Ga.

That's where he met Spc. Dawn Urbina, 25, of Macon, Ga.

At first, she said she didn't give him the time of day. Her mind was focused on her 3-year-old son, Jayke, whom she had to leave behind with her family in Georgia.

But Wallace was persistent.

By spring, he told his mother about her for the first time.

"She's my Georgia Peach, mom," he told her. "She's 5 feet tall, she has beautiful brown curly hair, the prettiest big white teeth you ever did see."

While he shared his happiness about Urbina with his family, he kept the terror he faced each day from them. But Urbina was there through it all. She drove the Humvee that he rode in as a gunner.

In August, he told here about a dream he had in which he died. When he told her about it, she said she had the same dream. Urbina tried to say it was a symptom of stress, but Wallace believed it was true and started his preparation.

In a journal entry dated Aug. 4, Wallace wrote messages about his future wishes for his family.

When he came home for a two-week leave in December, he asked his sisters, Rachel Tucker and Sarah Beth Wallace, to help him search for a ring for Urbina.

In previous trips home, he stayed low key. This one, however, was different.

Wallace visited with friends he had not seen in years and even met with ex-girlfriends to right any wrongs he had left behind.

He drained his accounts, giving money to his grandmothers.

When it came time to say goodbye, Robin Wallace looked at her son and said, "Come back to your momma."

He ran from her in tears.

In January, he had another dream. This time, he saw how he would be thrown from the Humvee he was riding in after a roadside bomb exploded.

Again, he told Urbina.

And just weeks before Wallace and Urbina were set to return to the United States, Wallace had a third dream. This time, he saw his mother weeping after learning that he had been killed.

Again, he told Urbina.

He stopped accepting phone calls from his family. Stopped responding to their letters. And as the rest of the soldiers in his unit packed their belongings to head home, Urbina asked him why he threw his away.

"He said he wouldn't need them anymore," Urbina said.

And before he left for what would be his final mission, he offered her money to spend on a trip to Disney World with her son, a trip the couple had talked about taking together.

The couple stopped going on missions together when military leaders discovered their romance, but they remained in the same unit. Another soldier died with him that day. Had Urbina been with him, it could have been her.

After she learned of his death, Urbina said, she felt compelled to tell Sgt. Wallace's family about his strength in facing death.

When Robin Wallace learned of her son's death, she rushed to her son's room desperate to touch his belongings.

"I just wanted to know he didn't suffer and that he wasn't afraid," she said.

That's when she found the journal containing his parting wishes for his family.

The last entry said, "I can do it, when no one else can, because God is with me. I can take it because God hath not given me a spirit of fear, but of power."

After she found the journal, she joined the rest of the family to talk to Urbina on the phone.

"I didn't want to be the one to tell you this, but Brandon knew," Urbina told the family in a phone call. And she told them about the dreams he had and how he wanted his family to know he was going to heaven.

And, as his family embraced Urbina for the first time Wednesday at Lambert Field, at least part of that dream came true.

"I knew his day was coming, but you just hope God is going to change his mind," Urbina said. "I denied it, but Brandon knew it. And God made him strong so he could make me strong for the family."

From the Post-Dispatch

Related Link:
Brandon Wallace reported killed in Iraq