A young Boisean who worked as a volunteer football coach for his high school and extended his Army enlistment to go to Iraq died Tuesday while on patrol in Baghdad .
Brandon Titus , 20 , triggered an "improvised explosive device" at 8:50 a.m. Baghdad time while at a military checkpoint. He died 10 minutes later.
A member of the Army's 10th Mountain Division headquartered at Fort Drum, N.Y. , Titus was a machine gun team leader and a lead gunner on a Humvee. It was unclear whether he was on foot or in a vehicle when the device, similar to a land mine, exploded.
Titus left for Iraq on an 18-month deployment in June of this year.
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"He wanted to go to Iraq, " his father, Boisean Tom Titus , said. "I razzed him because he extended his enlistment by something like six to eight months to go to Iraq and then got in the 10th Mountain Division and would have gone anyway. I told him the last thing I wanted him to do was join the military because of what happened to me, but he'd made up his mind."
Tom Titus was an Army Ranger who served most of two enlistments in Vietnam . His home is decorated with military medals, commendations, photographs and flags. He lost his sight in one eye in Vietnam, has shrapnel in his head and still suffers from exposure to Agent Orange.
Brandon Titus grew up in Boise and graduated in 2002 from Borah High School , where he played football. He joined the Army on a delayed entry program, staying in Boise to work as a volunteer coach for Borah's sophomore football team. He left for active duty that October . After the service, his father said, he hoped to attend college and teach at Borah.
Kathryn Southern , a friend since the ninth grade, called him "one of the best people I've ever known. He was always there for his friends and anybody else who needed him. I met him just after I moved here from Alaska , and there was never a time when he wasn't there for me. He liked to help me with my math. He was so smart. He could have done anything."
Lawrence Lumley , a next door neighbor, remembers Titus as "a super nice kid. He was well-mannered, which is something you don't see a lot in kids these days. His friends were the same way. They were good kids who were respectful of other people. You couldn't help but be impressed by Brandon."
His superiors in the Army were impressed enough with one of his ideas that they used it as the nickname of his platoon -- the Outlaws.
Tom Titus is a divorced single parent who raised his son from the time he was small.
"He wasn't one of those squeaky clean kids who do a lot of projects, but he was a good kid, " Titus said. "I'd be going somewhere with him and he'd see a senior citizen and open the door for them.
"... He'd have been 21 in December. He knows I don't drink that much, but I told him that when he got home I was going to take him out. I was looking forward to taking him around to some places."
An Army officer and Air Force chaplain came to Titus' home Tuesday to tell him his son had been killed.
"I'd slept late because I didn't get to sleep until three in the morning, " he said. "I had trouble falling asleep because I knew something was wrong with Brandon. I didn't know what it was, but I just had this feeling that something was wrong. When I saw them coming up my sidewalk, I knew."
If the Army follows its usual procedures, Titus' body will be returned to Boise in five to seven days. Tom Titus said his son once told him he'd like to be buried in the Foothills.
Among those calling with condolences Tuesday was Gov. Dirk Kempthorne . A motorcycle buff, the governor met Tom and Brandon Titus through Tom's work as state coordinator for Run for the Wall , a motorcycle ride to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Titus asked the governor to attend his son's service if he could. He also told him he wanted him to be buried in Idaho's new veterans cemetery. The governor told him the cemetery hasn't officially opened, however, and details of the service and burial arrangements are yet to be determined.
"I don't have anywhere else to bury him, " Titus said. "And he deserves it."