The 1,000th American serviceman killed in Afghanistan was born on the Fourth of July.
Corporal of Marines Jacob C. Leicht died Thursday when he stepped on a land mine in southern Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province. The blast was so powerful that ripped off his right arm.
It was the 24-year-old Texan's second deployment overseas.
While recovering from wound received in battle in Iraq, Cpl. Leicht had begged to return to the battlefield with his brother Marines.
He finally got back to the front lines, but was killed less than a month into the tour of duty he desperately wanted.
When the Marine Corps Casualty Call officers went to tell the parents their adopted son had died in battle, sheriff's deputies had to help navigate them to the 130-acre family ranch tucked deep in the Texas Hill Country.
For Cpl. Leicht, born in a California Navy hospital, the battlefield was exactly where he belonged. He turned his back on a college ROTC scholarship after just one semester because he feared it would lead him to a safe desk job state-side.
"His greatest fear was that they would tell him he would have to sit at a desk for the rest of his life," said Jonathan Leicht, his older brother.
When Jacob Leicht's wish finally came true, it didn't last long. His first deployment was to Iraq in 2007, but he was there less than a month when his vehicle drove over two 500-pound IEDs buried in the road.
One detonated, the other didn't. The blast ripped through the Humvee, flinging the radio into Cpl. Leicht's face and knocking him unconscious. His gunner's face was shredded so badly by shrapnel that Corpsmen couldn't keep water in his mouth.
The terrorist bomb snapped the Corporal's fibula and tibula, and the recovery was an agonizing ordeal of pins and rods and bolts drilled through his bones.
But he wasn't done fighting. He launched a campaign for himself at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, writing letters and making phone calls to anyone who would listen about returning to combat. More than two years later, he was finally strong enough to fight those who would harm innocent men, women and children.
Nine days before his brother stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, younger brother Jesse Leicht enlisted in the Corps. Using Facebook to reach a friend stationed not far from his brother, Jesse asked the Marine a favor: If you see Jacob, let him know I signed up like him.
"Hopefully," Jesse said, "he got the word."
Wilmington Conservative ExaminerKevin Whiteman