Monday, June 18, 2007

Dustin R. Brisky dies 'of wounds suffered from an explosion'

Dustin R. Brisky was the kind of guy who loved his mom, and didn’t care who knew. He held her hand in shopping malls. Gave her hugs in public.

And he also was the kind of guy who would volunteer for duty in Iraq with his buddies, even though he could have stayed in Texas doing a weekend a month in the Army Reserve, waiting to be called up.

Brisky died Thursday in Tallil, Iraq, of wounds suffered in an explosion. He was assigned to the Army Reserve’s 952nd Engineer Company, Paris, Texas. His unit was attached to the 92nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

He was awarded a Bronze Star for his work in Iraq, and received a posthumous promotion from specialist to corporal.

His mom, Karen Baker of Olathe, wears the silver dog tag he gave her when he graduated from basic training in Fort Knox, Ky., in September 2004. On one side is a picture of the two of them. On the other, “From Hawaii to the Army,” a reminder of the week the two of them spent in Hawaii shortly before he signed up for the Army Reserve.

“Dustin’s whole life was taking care of me and making me happy,” she said Monday, remembering a young man with a sweet smile and a quick wit, whose death came only a week after his 26th birthday.

Brisky and his mom lived in Texas for years, then moved to Overland Park when she married Bob Baker. Brisky attended Holy Spirit Elementary School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park before the family returned to Austin, Texas, to care for her ailing mother.

She said he was generous with his possessions and with his time — willing to share the last piece of candy, and happily playing cards and dominoes with a doting great-grandmother.

But Brisky wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life after he graduated from McNeil High School in Round Rock, Texas, in 1999, his mother said.

He worked for a while in customer service jobs in Texas.

“He took great pride in helping people,” Baker said, but sometimes was frustrated when people were cross with him.

They took a trip to Hawaii in February 2004 — just the two of them. A week of talking about life, about his future. Perhaps he’d study architecture — he’d always had a gift for art, his mom said.

Four months later, he told Baker he’d joined the Army Reserve. He said he thought that might give him the direction he was seeking.

After basic training, she could see the difference in him.

“He came back a person who held his head high, so full of confidence,” Baker said. “He was very proud to be an American soldier.”

And when some of his buddies were sent to Iraq, Brisky volunteered to go with them, telling his mom he wanted to go with friends “who he knew would have his back.”

He completed the training he needed and left on Oct. 31.

“He said the hardest part was that he would not see friends and family,” Baker said.

On Thursday, he was operating a bulldozer at a construction site near Tallil, pushing berms to make protective positions for American soldiers, when he hit an unmarked natural-gas line. He was killed instantly, his mother said.

His funeral is planned for Friday in Pflugerville, Texas.

In addition to his mother and stepfather, Brisky is survived by a younger brother, Nicholas Baker, and his father, Bob Brisky of Dallas.

From the Kansas City Star