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Published: Thursday, 5/26/2005

Army investigating death in Iraq of Lenawee County soldier

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SAND CREEK, Mich. - U.S. Army officials said yesterday that the death in Iraq on Monday of Spec. Joshua Brazee of Sand Creek, Mich., remains under investigation.

Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Specialist Brazee, 25, was being listed as a noncombat fatality. "Enemy fire is not believed to be involved," she said.

Major Robbins said noncombat deaths fall under one of five categories: accident, illness, suicide, foul play, and acts of God, such as lightning strikes.

She said Specialist Brazee was not killed in a vehicular accident and that the circumstances surrounding his death remain uncertain. "This one is less clear," she said.

Specialist Brazee died in Al Qaim. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Carson, Colo.

Ron Brazee of Blissfield, Mich., Specialist Brazee's grandfather, said Tuesday night that his grandson had been in Iraq several months after joining the Army a year ago. Previously, he served four years in the Navy, Mr. Brazee said.

Yesterday afternoon, flags flew at half staff over much of Sand Creek, a Lenawee County farming community southwest of Adrian.

A Brazee family friend, interviewed in front of the home of Specialist Brazee's parents, Kevin and Teresa Brazee, said the family was not talking to the media after a morning in which a number of reporters and TV camera crews staked out the residence.

"They are requesting their privacy," said the friend, who did not give her name.

Of Specialist Brazee, she said: "He was a fine man. He was a hero."

The Brazees live on West Horton, a tree-lined road that slices through sweeping fields of corn and soybeans.

Doug Berridge, their next-door neighbor, had his driveway gate closed yesterday afternoon, keeping visitors at bay.

"He was a good guy, and I'm real sorry. There's nothing else to say," he said from a distance before turning away from a reporter.

A mile away, at Sand Creek High School, where Specialist Brazee graduated in 1998, students were just learning about the death of a former student.

"The word is just out in the community," Principal Steve Laundra said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Laundra recalled Specialist Brazee: "He was a good student, well-behaved. He played a little football. He wasn't a superstar, but he was a good team player. He liked to try a lot of things. He was just a good, average country school student, taking in the full experience," he said.

Mr. Laundra said Specialist Brazee's file indicated an early interest in the military.

Specialist Brazee's brother, Royce Brazee, is a sophomore at Sand Creek, Mr. Laundra said.

Major Robbins said the Army would have no further public comment on Specialist Brazee's death even after the investigation is completed. "[But] the family will be briefed as more information is known," she said.

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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