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Bradford Payne


U.S. Marine Corps


10/06/2006, SAQLAWIYAH, IRAQ

Years after he first described it in pencil, Brad Payne’s dream of becoming a Marine became a reality.

“I made my mind up this summer,” he wrote in a sixth-grade paper. “When I get out of high school, I’m going into the Marines.”

Knowing that their son died living his dream helps console W. Howard and Carol Payne of Pike Road, who learned Friday that their son was killed in Iraq.

“He pretty much shot for (the Marines) in the sixth grade,” said his father, W. Howard Payne. “That’s what he wanted to do.”

The 24-year-old infantryman, who grew up in Montgomery, died after his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb Friday in Al Anbar Province in western Iraq. Howard Payne had just arrived home from his job at Baptist Health Systems on Friday afternoon when the doorbell rang.

“When I opened the door, there were three Marines and one Air Force chaplain. Their assignment was to tell both of us,” Payne said of he and his wife, Carol.

Payne then sent his daughter, Katherine, 17, to Fitzpatrick Elementary School, where his wife teaches first grade. The Marines who broke the news Friday have continued to coordinate plans with the Paynes and their son’s wife of two years, Erin. He is the grandson of lifelong Montgomery residents Bill and Billie Jean Payne. After Payne’s body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday, two sergeants visited the couple Monday afternoon to discuss funeral arrangements, which have not been finalized.

Payne’s mother describes her son as “all boy.”

“He was always outside,” Carol Payne said. “From the time he was able to walk, he was outside, getting into things.”

The Paynes said their son, who was based at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., had prepared them for the possibility of not returning from the war, outlining his wishes both in letters and in person.

“He was not naive about the outcome,” his father said. “He knew his purpose of going over there and that it was dangerous.”

Since learning of their son’s death, the couple has pulled photos of their middle child out of drawers and spread them over tables in their sunny living room. The room overlooks the lake and dock, where Brad spent countless hours with a fishing rod and tackle box. The photos depict Brad Payne, a NASCAR, country music and Auburn University fan, in every stage of his life — as smiling baby, baseball player, graduate, happy groom and as a Marine. The sixth-grade report, declaring his desire to serve, now has been placed in a frame — the last sentence a reminder to his parents and his sisters, Katherine and Sharon, of what their son and brother died doing:

“I can’t wait until the day comes when I go in the Marines.”

Marine Corporal Bradford H. Payne was killed in action on 10/06/06.


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