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Marine with local ties dies in Iraq blast

Former Milligan soccer standout killed in suicide car bombing

By Sue Guinn Legg

Marine Capt. Brian S. Letendre, his wife, Autumn Letendre, and their son Dillon, 3, are shown in a family photo. Capt. Letendre became the second serviceman with Tri-Cities ties to die in Iraq in the past week.
(Contributed / Ann Griffith)

Johnson City Press Staff Writer

Marine Capt. Brian S. Letendre, a former soccer standout at Milligan College, has become the second U.S. service member with ties to the Tri-Cities killed in Iraq within a week.

Letendre, who received the Marine and Navy Medal of Valor for his service in Iraq in 2003, was killed May 3 in the Al Anbar province west of Baghdad when a suicide car bomber struck his observation post.

His death follows that of Army Specialist Robbie Glen Light of Kingsport, a 21-year-old tank driver who was killed by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad on May 1.

On the request of the family, Milligan College professor Bruce Montgomery will officiate funeral services for Letendre. The services will be Monday, May 15, in his hometown of Woodbridge, Va., with burial following at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.

Montgomery, who became friends with Letendre and his wife, Autumn, while both were students at Milligan, said Tuesday that he remembered him most for his humor, his drive and his leadership both on campus and as captain of the school’s conference-winning soccer team.

“He was a very popular man on campus, and we have received a very large response, almost overwhelming response, to the news of his death from people all over the country who knew him or played with him here.”

Letendre came to Milligan on a soccer scholarship, transferring from Montreat College in Black Mountain, N.C., along with former Milligan soccer coach John Garvilla, who, like Montgomery, remained friends with the young officer after his graduation.

He joined the Marines and received his training while still a student at Milligan. Letendre was commissioned as a lieutenant upon his graduation from Milligan in 2000.

It was during his time in the Milligan soccer program that Letendre met his wife, Autumn Crane Letendre, then captain of the Milligan women’s soccer team.

The couple and their 3-year-old son, Dillon, were residing in Plainville, Conn., prior to his second deployment to Iraq just three weeks before his death. Saturday would have been his 28th birthday.

Autumn’s grandmother, Ann Griffith, of Bluff City, said she visited the couple in Connecticut last summer and was very impressed with Letendre’s love for his son, his wife and his country.

“He was a just a fine, caring young man,” she said. “He was strong. He was patriotic. And he believed in what his country was doing. That’s why he went back (for a second tour in Iraq).”

In a letter to family and friends, Autumn wrote of her husband’s death, “while cocooned in sadness, I could not be more proud.

“Brian loved the Marine Corps and all that encompassed its mission. He believed that being in Iraq was right and that no one should resist the chance to liberate another human being, even if that meant putting his life on the line.

“ … We have truly lost an American hero,” his wife wrote.

In addition to his wife and son, Letendre is survived by his parents, Milton and June Letendre, Woodbridge, and two brothers, Justin and Nick Letendre.

His father-in-law, Larry Crane, Indianapolis, and his wife’s grandparents, Earl and Ann Griffith, of Bluff City, are also Milligan alumni.

On the family’s request, a soccer scholarship fund has been established at the college in Letendre’s memory. For those who wish, contributions may be made to the Captain Brian S. Letendre Memorial Soccer Scholarship, Milligan College, P.O. Box 750, Milligan College, TN 37682, or click here to donate online.




MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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