Marine born on 4th of July becomes 1,000th U.S. death in Afghan war

The 1,000th American serviceman killed in Afghanistan was born on the Fourth of July. He died several days before Americans honour fallen troops on Memorial Day.

By The AKERRVILLE, Texas — The 1,000th American serviceman killed in Afghanistan was born on the Fourth of July. He died several days before Americans honour fallen troops on Memorial Day.

Marine Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht was killed Thursday when he stepped on a land mine in Helmand province that ripped off his right arm. It was the 24-year-old Texan’s second deployment overseas.

Leicht had begged to return to the battlefield after a bomb took out his Humvee in Iraq. He spent two painful years recovering from face and leg injuries, all the while pining for combat in letters from his hospital bed.

He finally got back to the front lines in southern Afghanistan, but was killed less than a month into the tour of duty he desperately wanted.

“He said he always wanted to die for his country and be remembered,” said Jesse Leicht, his younger brother. “He didn’t want to die having a heart attack or just being an old man. He wanted to die for something.”

An Associated Press tally shows Leicht is the 1,000th U.S. serviceman killed in the Afghan conflict. The first death — nearly nine years ago — was also a soldier from the San Antonio area.

The AP bases its tally on Defence Department reports of deaths suffered as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.

Other news organizations count deaths suffered by service members assigned elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Leicht’s brothers told the AP the military also told the family that his death put the toll at 1,000.

When military officers went to tell Leicht’s parents their adopted son had died in combat, sheriff’s deputies had to help navigate them to the 130-acre (53-hectare) family ranch tucked deep in the Texas Hill Country.

It was here that Jacob Leicht chopped thick cedar trees and hiked the rugged limestone peaks, growing up into an imposing 6-5 (1.96-meter), 200-pound (90-kilogram) Marine with a soft heart. He watched “Dora the Explorer” with his brother’s children and confided to family that he was troubled by the thought of young civilians being killed in battle.

But for Leicht, born in a Lemoore, California, Navy hospital, the battlefield was the destination. He threw away a college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship after just one semester because he feared it would lead away from the front lines.

“His greatest fear was that they would tell him he would have to sit at a desk for the rest of his life,” said Jonathan Leicht, his older brother.

When Jacob Leicht’s wish finally came true, it didn’t last long.

His first deployment was to Iraq in 2007, but he was there just three weeks when Jesse Leicht said his brother drove over two 500-pound (227-kilogram) bombs beneath the road.

One detonated, the other didn’t. The blast tore through the Humvee, shooting the radio into Leicht’s face and knocking him unconscious. He felt something pinch his thumb, and the gunner’s face was filleted so badly by shrapnel that medics couldn’t keep water in his mouth.

None of the five people inside the vehicle died. Jesse Leicht said an Iraqi interpreter, the only one on board who wasn’t seriously injured, dragged his brother from the mangled vehicle. The blast snapped Jacob Leicht’s fibula and tibula, and the recovery was an agonizing ordeal of pins and rods and bolts drilled into his bones.

But all Jacob Leicht could think about was going back. He launched a campaign for himself at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, writing letters and making phone calls about returning to combat. More than two years later, he was finally healthy enough to serve again.

Nine days before his brother stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, Jesse Leicht enlisted in the Marines. Using Facebook to reach a friend stationed not far from his brother, Jesse asked the soldier a favour: If you see Jacob, let him know I signed up like him.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The UCP government has turned down a request from the opposition to discuss a bill intended to protect the Rocky Mountains in the legislature. (CP file photo).
Consultations on coal mining don’t go far enough: NDP

Coal mining in the Rockies has not sat well with many Albertans… Continue reading

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Most Read