Thursday, April 18, 2019
Go to War in Iraq
War in Iraq
Coverage from National Public Radio


Rochester soldier killed in Iraq
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A new exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery, "Faces of The Fallen," features 1,300 portraits by 200 artists of U.S. troops who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the foreground is the portrait of Marine Cpl. Patrick Tillman, who was football player for the Arizona Cardinals. He was killed in April, 2004. (Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A young soldier from Rochester died in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq Wednesday. Spec. Travis Bruce was the first person from Rochester killed in the war, and the 20th Minnesotan fatality since the conflict began two years ago. Bruce is being remembered for his devotion to friends and family and his dedication to his job.

Rochester, Minn. — On Thursday morning, an Army sergeant appeared at Vickie Bruce's front door to deliver the news of her son's death. Travis Bruce, 22, was part of a military police brigade. He was positioned on the roof a building in Baghdad when he was killed in a rocket attack.

Not long after Bruce's mother got the news, her sister-in-law, Sue Ketchum, rushed over to lend support. Ketchum says the family spent Thursday holed up together, watching home movies and reminiscing about her nephew.

"I was amazed yesterday by the number of people who came in and said, 'I just talked to Travis on the phone on Monday,' or, 'I just got an e-mail from Travis on Thursday.' He was in constant contact with friends and family, even from Iraq," says Ketchum.

Travis Bruce joined the Army shortly after graduating from Mayo High School in 2002. He was with the 42nd Military Police Brigade, based in Fort Lewis, Washington.

We say he left for the Army a boy, and came back a young man. And he was very proud of what he was doing.
- Sue Ketchum

He was part of the first wave of troops to enter the region through Kuwait back in 2003. And he recently deployed for the second time, leaving for Iraq around Valentine's Day.

Bruce was proud to be soldier. His high school principal, John Fredrickson, says it was just last year that Bruce participated in a Veterans Day event, talking to students about his experiences in combat. Frederickson says at the time, Bruce was on a two-week leave from Iraq. He says while Bruce seemed relieved to be home, he was also anxious to get back.

"One of the things that came through loud and clear was the commitment he felt for the people in his unit that were still back in Iraq," says Fredrickson. "He was a real integral part of his unit, and he felt an obligation and a connection with those people and they to him."

Fredrickson recalls Bruce as a hard worker, well-liked by his peers. Bruce's aunt Sue Ketchum describes him as quiet and shy, but also full of fun.

"We say he left for the Army a boy, and came back a young man. He was still soft-spoken, but he was more sure of himself. And he was very proud of what he was doing," says Ketchum.

That's in part because he was following in his family's footsteps. Bruce's father recently retired from a 25-year stint in Army. He, too, was a member of the Military Police. His great uncle and grandfather were also MPs.

In recent months, Bruce had begun contemplating life after the Armed Forces, or at least after this tour of duty. Sue Ketchum says he was thinking about two ideas.

"He just told his mother he was checking into becoming a K-9 police officer, or possibly re-enlisting and becoming a recruiter for the Army," says Ketchum.

Bruce will be remembered by his fellow soldiers on Saturday in Iraq. His family hopes his body will be returned to Rochester in the coming days so that funeral preparations in his hometown can move forward.