1.29.2005

Iraq war hits home

The Herald Journal - 9.8.04

Last June, Brett and Zellene Allred of Hyde Park received a letter from the U.S. Marine Corps.

The letter offered congratulations for an award their son recently had earned, and it assumed the proud parents knew all about Lance Cpl. Michael Allred's Purple Heart.

But Lance Cpl. Allred hadn't mentioned it once in letters and phone calls home from Iraq. He had received it in March.

"He doesn't toot his own horn," said Zellene Allred. "He very quietly does the things that need to be done."

On Tuesday, it was time for others to speak about what he'd done.

Lance Cpl. Allred, 22, died near Fallujah, Iraq, on Monday. He was one of seven Marines killed in a car-bomb attack, and the first soldier from Cache Valley to die during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Department of Defense had yet to confirm the casualties or details of the attack by Tuesday afternoon, but stories about a wiry, brown-haired young soldier who never had a negative word to say about the Iraqi people were made public, albeit with a moist eye and a choked voice at times, by those who knew him best.

Early Tuesday afternoon, the driveway to his family's Hyde Park home was filled with the vehicles of extended family members offering comfort and condolences. A spacious front yard was lined with 60 American flags. Parked in the grass 25 feet from the front door was a red Chevy S-10 pickup, with a Marine Corps sticker in the rear window and a Harley-Davidson flag draped over the side.

Family members spoke quietly in the shade of the garage. Friends who knocked on the front door offered Brett or Zellene Allred a hug, as Michael Allred's nieces ran around the living room.

His parents held a photo of Michael in his blue dress uniform and spoke calmly about what had been on their minds since two Marines arrived at the front door Monday night.

"He was very positive, very upbeat," said Zellene Allred, who last heard from her son in a letter received a week ago Monday. "He felt very strongly that we should be in Iraq. ... He was proud."

"He felt it was a way to do something with his life that had meaning and purpose," said Brett Allred.

Michael Allred was the third of Brett and Zellene's five children, one of four boys. He was the only one of the five to join the military, having enlisted six months after graduating from Sky View High School in 2000, but he followed several uncles who fought in World War II and a grandfather who was in the Korean War. Lance Cpl. Allred was an uncle who loved his young nieces, a son that played on his motorcycle or in his red truck and a friend who rock-climbed, camped and kept family members on their toes.

"My whole life, he was basically my brother," said J.R. Jorgensen, 21, a cousin from Salt Lake City. "If there was trouble, we were the ones behind it."

Jorgensen said the two friends had "big dreams" for when Allred's tour of duty ended. A road trip back from the Marine base in San Diego, a stop in Las Vegas, perhaps working together for a property company in Salt Lake City. Maybe back to school or an LDS mission. Definitely a new motorcycle. Brett Allred said the one thing his son was sure of was that he couldn't wait to be back in Cache Valley.

Michael Allred's tour in Iraq -- his second since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in early 2003 -- was scheduled to end the first week of October. His four years of enlistment would have expired in January. His parents said that during a visit to Hyde Park last Christmas, their son didn't talk about fighting or the danger U.S. troops have increasingly faced during the last year. Instead, he told funny stories about the people he had met. The humble young man would blush when people called him a hero for defending supply lines as American troops took Baghdad, and he quietly let his family know how he felt about a second trip in Iraq.

"He was concerned about going back," said Zellene Allred.

He wasn't concerned about fighting, she said; Michael had been trained to fight. But as the war in Iraq continued and attacks from insurgents became more frequent, Michael Allred and his Battalion were concerned about knowing whom to fight.

"This time, they didn't," said Brad Allred, Michael's 26-year-old brother. "And that's what happened to him in the end."

Brad Allred said the two shared a room growing up, as well as many late-night conversations about the future. Brad Allred learned that his brother kept his word no matter what. He learned that Michael Allred had "no fear" and a sense of humor that appealed to 21-year-old cousins as well as nieces just learning to walk.

Now Brad Allred will remember those traits, he said, every time a motorcycle drives by or someone else posts a Marine Corps sticker like the one in Michael's old truck.

"I feel a sense of pride," said Brad Allred. "That's my brother. He's a Marine."

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