Brandon E. Maggart's wife Teresa was planning to welcome her soldier husband home to Missouri this month with a banner that said "Husband, Father, Hero." Instead, she used the words in an obituary for the Fort Lewis Army sergeant, 24, who, it turns out, officially is the last American service member to die in Iraq combat. "We had so many plans for Brandon's leave," Teresa Maggart said in the obit she wrote, "fishing, golfing, going to [son] Blake's first soccer game, going to the ocean, Seahawks & Mariners game, and of course eating at Outback...just a few of his favorite things to do..."
Maggart's unwelcome spot in history came on August 22nd, a week before President Obama announced the end of the American combat mission in Iraq, known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched March 20, 2003. More than 4,400 U.S. troops died there, including more than 300 with Washington state connections, according to Seattle Weekly's newly updated War Dead pages.
The Army says Maggart, a 2006 enlistee from Kirksville, Mo., was fatally wounded in Basrah, Iraq by "indirect fire" from insurgents attacking his unit - part of the 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He died about four days after Fort Lewis' main combat unit, the 4th Stryker Brigade, pulled out of Iraq. The news media reported then, and again a week later when Obama made his announcement, that the Iraq war had ended.
Obviously, it hadn't for Maggart, nor for two U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq yesterday, the first to die there since Maggart was killed. As well, one of his fellow Fort Lewis soldiers, Spc. Faith R. Hinkley, 23, was the third-to-last to die during combat operations, on Aug. 7.
The dying, conversely, has increased in Afghanistan where the wars of Southwest Asia are now centered. In one incident, four Fort Lewis soldiers from the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment's 17th Fires Brigade died together when their vehicle was bombed in Qalat, Afghanistan.