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Pvt. Brian Moquin: A Young Soldier in Afghanistan

NOAH ADAMS, host:

In Afghanistan, the other front of the Bush administration's war on terror, fighting intensified over the weekend.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The U.S.-led coalition conducted nighttime air strikes against Taliban rebels in southern Afghanistan. As many as 80 suspected Taliban members were killed, along with more than a dozen civilians.

ADAMS: This past week has been one of the bloodiest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban back in 2001. More than 250 have been killed in the violence.

BRAND: Mean time, last week, an Army private from Worchester, Massachusetts, who was killed while on duty in Afghanistan, was laid to rest.

ADAMS: Brian Moquin was one of 10 members of the 10th Mountain Division killed, when their helicopter tumbled off a rugged mountain landing earlier in the month.

From member station WBUR, Martha Bebinger has more.

MARTHA BEBINGER, reporting:

Nineteen-year-old Brian Moquin was the youngest soldier killed when the Chinook helicopter burst into flames. He joined the Army just over a year ago and was sent to Afghanistan last fall at the Scout for a combat unit.

Outside St. Anne's Catholic Church, Moquin's friends huddled to share stories and comfort. Tasha Bara(ph) grew up with Moquin.

Ms. TASHA BARA (Friend of Brian Moquin): I remember in the summers, going on the boat and tubing, and having the tubes flip me over because he would always push me. He was a good kid. He had a good personality. He always made you smile, no matter what.

BEBINGER: But friends describe strains on Moquin's generous and fun-loving spirit. He moved from one high school to another before dropping out. He eventually got his GED at a local community college.

Patrick McGuire(ph) says Moquin joined the Army because it seemed like his only option at the time.

PATRICK MCQUIRE (Friend of Brian Moquin): Rent was due. He had no money to pay for it. He really didn't have any place to go. So he decided that was the best place. He thought it was respectable, and died doing something that he thought was good.

BEBINGER: Other friends say the Army seemed to fit Moquin's adventurous, daredevil personality.

(Soundbite of music)

During mass, Moquin's mother, Tracy Valencourt(ph), was too shaken to speak. Valencourt asked her fiancé to read something she'd written about her fearless toddler, who grew up to be a teenager, defying gravity on his skateboard.

Mr. PETER BISSONET(ph) (Fiancé of Tracy Valencourt): One day, he brought his bureau from his room outside and made a ramp out of it, walked to the top of our very steep driveway, then down the driveway and over the bureau he went. He had no fear. But the bravest choice of all was when he decided to join the Army and fight for the freedom of our country.

He was determined. And I am proud of him.

BEBINGER: The fiancé, Peter Bissonet, is a Worchester police officer who had grown fond of Moquin.

Mr. BISSONET: Every day I wake up and step out my door, I'm going to strive to be as brave as Brian. He was the real deal. He was the real deal.

BEBINGER: Many who knew Moquin described him as wise beyond his years. He wrote poetry and drew pictures that amazed students and instructors, says his former art teacher, Gayle(ph) Fairbanks.

Ms. GAYLE FAIRBANKS (Former Teacher of Brian Moquin): He understood the enormities of life. And it showed in his work. There was always a statement of how the way the world should be and how he'd like to change it.

BEBINGER: Moquin was a guitarist and vocalist in a band called, Coordinates: Cartesia. Their music is posted on the Internet. The remaining members of that group and a half dozen other bands are planning a memorial concert for Brian Moquin.

For NPR News, I'm Martha Bebinger in Boston.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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