'Because it's my job'

Friday, July 6, 2007

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

The younger brother of the first Marshall County man killed in America's war on terror during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan is returning to Iraq in a few months "because it's my job."

Army Staff Sgt. Brian Nunes, 31, is foregoing an option epitomized by the movie "Saving Pvt. Ryan." He's the surviving son of a family stricken by war since the 2004 death of his brother, Todd Edward Nunes, who perished while on patrol from his base in Kirkuk.

Brian Nunes' decision to return to Iraq was announced Wednesday night during Lewisburg's celebration of Independence Day at Rock Creek Park. Yesterday, he explained his decision, outlined his experience and spoke of family, friends and brothers in arms.

He joined the Army "right out of" Marshall County High School on July 19, 1995. He plans to retire after 20 years. His brother also planned to retire from the military after 20 years.

Todd "was on a combat patrol from his base in Kirkuk, Iraq, and an Improvised Explosive Device went off in the middle of the patrol, wounding nearly 10 soldiers. He was in one of the rear vehicles. He pulled forward for security and drew small arms fire and was hit in the head," Brian said. "He was almost 30.

"I've been ambushed while on patrol," he continued. "One of my friends was shot nine times and got killed."

Brian went to Iraq before Todd. In 2003, he was a section sergeant for a scout platoon conducting routine patrol, route reconnaissance, and security for the battalion commander. There were "occasional fire fights, roadside bombs, IEDs, raids" and they searched for weapons Iraqis aren't supposed to have.

He's not been hurt; not even dehydrated: "Not as long as you drink enough water. I couldn't afford for that to happen because the other soldiers are relying on me."

His wife is the former Miss Angela Uselton. They attended Marshall County High School together. Their sons are Jayden, 6, and Drew, 9. Their home is at Fort Stewart, Ga. Brian's parents are Barbara Nunes and Jimmy Collins who live in Chapel Hill.

"We found out [about Todd's death] within 8-12 hours... The military contacted Christy, his wife, in Hawaii at the Scoffield Barracks. They had two children, Alex, 4, and Lorissa, 10, a rising 4th grader. Todd's widow and children live in Cornersville now.

Brian is in the Third Battalion, 7th Infantry Division.

As for his option to leave combat to others, Brian said, "That's not me. I did it once for my mother in 2005 in Iraq. That was probably the worst year for me in the Army. My unit was deployed eight months after he was killed."

That year he "dealt with all kinds of paperwork … to get supplies for soldiers" and helped soldiers "who could not meet military standards who were being processed out of the military," he said.

Some were "druggies, some thieves…," Brian said. He agreed, they were "slackers" and had to escort them to appointments; "Basically … hold their hand like a small child."

He'd rather be in combat with comrades instead of those who are "disrespectful to the soldiers who do what they're supposed to do and had no problem with that;" Brian said, "And here's some knuckle head who still thinks he's on the street and wants that lifestyle."

His mother "knows how I feel; that this is the job I signed up for and what my intent is," he said, acknowledging that she doesn't want to lose another son. He understands that she's upset, but says, "My brother would have done the same thing if roles were reversed."

Todd was 18 months older than Brian.

"We were close. He was my older brother and somebody I looked up to."

Both were on the high school wrestling team.

"When you join the military it's for God and country and family," Brian said. "That still applies, but when you're in the combat zone, the people on patrol become your family.

"Our goal in the patrol is to bring everybody back in one piece."

Brian Nunes said he will "come back for a new Harley [motorcycle] to ride with veterans in Georgia."

He anticipates returning in late 2008 or early 2009.