PEMBROKE, MA, USA U.S. Marines 1STLT, 2D TANK BN, 2D MARDIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC IRAQ 04/04/2003
Marine 1st Lieutenant Brian McPhillips’ path to military service was not a typical one. He attended Boston College High School and graduated from Providence College. Friends say his intelligence and determination gave him plenty of options for the future. But beneath the trajectory of his life was an overriding pride in his country and a desire to defend it. He decided to serve in the Marines, as his father had before him.
The Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that McPhillips, 25, a first lieutenant assigned to a tank battalion, was one of three Marines killed Friday during a firefight in central Iraq. He is the South Shore’s first casualty of the war.
As they struggled to cope with news of his death, friends and relatives remembered his pleasant disposition and the quiet courage, which made him well-suited for his life in the military.
“It’s a shame he’s gone, but he died going out there for our country,” said Christopher Driscoll, 24, who played Little League baseball with McPhillips and was a classmate at Boston College High School. “He was an honorable kid, and that shows you right there.”
McPhillips’ family – father, David, mother, Julie, and younger sister, Carrie – mourned in private but issued a statement which said Brian McPhillips “loved his family dearly and served his country with unwavering pride.”
“At this difficult time, we ask for your prayers, specifically for our family, his platoon, for all U.S. servicemen and women, and in general for world peace,” the family said.
News of McPhillips’ death was met with sorrow and solemn reflection from town officials and residents. Flags across town were lowered to half staff and selectmen held a moment of silence during a meeting last night.
Julie Caruso, organizer of the Pembroke Military Support Group, said David and Julie McPhillips have been attending meetings for about seven months. They called her during the weekend and told her of their son’s death.
“Whoever heard (McPhillips’) name would say, ‘What a great kid from a great family,’ ” Caruso said yesterday. “He was the epitome of what you would want. When and if the family needs us, we’ll be there.”
The McPhillipses’ next-door neighbor, Bob Christie, 47, said receiving news of his death was like being “kicked in the gut.”He remembered McPhillips as unassuming and intelligent. “He didn’t have to make this choice,” he said of joining the Marines. “He was the picture of a quiet leader, very modest.”
Christie said he spoke with the family and was amazed by their strength.
“I can’t get over the pride they showed when a lot of other people might have had bitterness and anger,” he said. “(Brian) served a great purpose while he was here, and how can you not be proud when someone goes over there and does that, and pays the ultimate sacrifice?”