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Minnesota National Guard
Much braver than I am
His son killed in Iraq, the dad recalls the young Soldier's sense of duty

The face in the photo is young, almost too young to be holding something capable of spitting out 1,000 rounds of ammunition per minute

As the sun seared overhead, Bryan McDonough, 22, stood on a rooftop overlooking one of the canals that refresh the parched Iraqi landscape He turned to the camera for a portrait with his M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon

The photo was one of several that the Maplewood Soldier placed on his myspace.com Web site And on Monday, it was one of the few reminders of his life McDonough was one of two Minnesota Soldiers killed in Iraq on Saturday when a bomb exploded beneath their vehicle

McDonough was killed instantly Corey Rystad, 20, of Red Lake Falls, died later of his wounds And at least one other Soldier was maimed The men, members of the Minnesota National Guard, were providing security for a convoy near Fallujah, the military told relatives

Early Sunday, the Department of Defense informed Tom and Renee McDonough that Bryan, the second of their four children, had died Tom hadn't been crazy about his son's signing up for the National Guard, but there's little a father can tell his then-19-year-old son "Somebody has to do it, but nobody wants it to be their son," Tom McDonough recalled Monday "I was one of those guys But he felt it was his duty He's much braver than I am"

Bryan McDonough was an athletic guy, a 2002 graduate of Roseville Area High School who loved lacrosse, snowboarding, hockey, sitting in a boat, country music and having fun with his many friends He got hired at Andersen Windows and was 18 when the US invaded Iraq in spring 2003

After the invasion, he decided to join the Minnesota National Guard

"When the first casualties came in, he decided they were not the right guys to be fighting the war, they should be young guys like him, so he joined," his father said "When he first announced it to me, I tried to encourage him not to But he decided he was a good candidate and he did it"

"He felt a sense of duty when the war started," he said

That attitude - that he was the right kind of person to press the war in Iraq - comes through in Bryan's photos and writing on his account at myspace.com, a popular Web site where people can post their blogs and pictures

"This is definitely not the most glorious place in the world, but there's no other place I would rather be Putting everything on the line to defend my country is something I wanted to do and am proud to be here," he wrote in an entry last week

McDonough joined the National Guard in September 2003 He finished his Advanced Individual Training in May 2004, "and they told him he probably wasn't going to go (to Iraq) for a while, so he enrolled at St Cloud Tech," his father said

In school, he studied "really basic stuff His intent was, he was looking for a degree in criminal justice," Tom McDonough said He hadn't been in school long when he got called up, and he was deployed to Iraq last October

The photos and words he posted on his myspace.com site offer glimpses of the life of a young Soldier fighting a dirty war in the digital age The snapshots include the poignant, the mundane, the lighthearted, the questionable

In most of the photos, he is armed with his M-249 light machine gun, a rapid-firing weapon meant to suppress enemy fire

In one photo, he is shown aiming the weapon; he is sleeveless, and there is a large Latin cross tattooed on his right arm In another, he is posing with some Iraqi children who are giving the "thumbs up" sign There's a photo of him at the firing range after shooting at a human silhouette target on which he painted the name "John Kerry"

In most of the photos, he looks like the fresh-faced 22-year-old suburban Twin Cities guy that he is But in one photo, which he captioned "Chillin after a mission," he and some other Soldiers are sitting on a plywood bench, surrounded by protective sandbags, and the labor and anxiety of combat shows on each young face

His father said that, for the most part, Bryan didn't burden his family with details of the war

"He told us what he thought we needed to know, so he downplayed the danger," said Tom McDonough "Recently, he was giving me more information, that it was 'hot' there, that there was a lot more action"

His father said Bryan's commander called him after his son had died and offered details about the explosion of the improvised explosive device that took his life Although Bryan was usually a gunner in a Humvee, on this day he was driving

"He was driving in an area where they did a lot of convoy security," his father said "He was driving the second vehicle The first vehicle did not sustain any damage, but the IED hit his vehicle It killed him instantly"

Bryan McDonough was due back home in March

"Our target date was St Patty's Day," his father said

Did they have a big party planned?

"You betcha," Tom McDonough said "We're Irish"

By David Hanners, Pioneer Press, 651-228-5551
Source: http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/local/16164693.htm

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