FREMONT, CA, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, E CO, 2D BN, 4TH MAR, 1ST MAR DIV, CAMP PENDLETON, CA AL ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ 04/06/2004
When Hollywood casts a Marine, it thinks Rambo — biceps bulging and a string of bullets slung across a camouflaged chest. Lance Corporal Travis Layfield seemed born to that role.
Family and friends gathered Thursday in Fremont to remember Layfield, 19, who was killed by hostile fire Tuesday in Iraq. They recalled a young man who, from almost Day One, was fascinated with the military, wars, soldiers and guns.He was a Marine in every sense. And so much more.
“His heart was so big,” said his cousin Ashley Mills, 19, of Tracy.
Mills remembered a night a little more than a year ago when she was fighting with her boyfriend. She turned to Layfield.
“I had no one else to call,” Mills said. “He was with his own girlfriend. And he dropped everything to comfort me. He protected me.”
Others who gathered Thursday at his mother’s small apartment recalled the time when another cousin broke her arm and had to go to the hospital. It was Travis who stayed by her side to comfort her.
Diane Layfield learned of her son’s death Tuesday night. She was returning home from her grandson’s Sunnyvale baseball game about 7 p.m. when three uniformed Marines entered her gated apartment complex.They hadn’t said a word. But she knew.
“I just lost it,” she said.
Two neighbors grabbed her, holding her up. The officers escorted her upstairs. One knelt by her side, giving her what little news he had. Layfield’s grandfather was a Navy Seabee in World War II, and he has a cousin and uncle in the Army, relatives said.Still, no one could quite explain why Layfield seemed hard-wired at birth to be a military aficionado.
“I would be watching some kind of sports on TV,” his brother, Tyler, 17, recalled Thursday. “And he would grab the remote and switch it to some boring stuff, something military or on the History Channel.”
He embraced Marine life with gusto, sporting a “Devil Dog” tattoo and a feather tattoo, symbolic of his Lakota Sioux background. His father, John Layfield, a forklift operator at NUMMI in Fremont, is American Indian. And true to her son’s protector spirit, Travis mother Diane recalled another phone conversation in which he explained that a friend had asked him to deliver a goodbye letter to his wife, just in case.
He refused, because he refused to accept that outcome. Besides, he had a better idea. “He said he wouldn’t deliver it,” his mother recalled. He said, “I’m going to take care of you.”’