The deadly roadside bombs plaguing the U.S. mission in Iraq were the subject of special attention for people like Brett E. Angus.
A munitions expert, he defused the crude weapons during his first tour of duty in Iraq and when he returned to his base at Camp Pendleton, showed others how it could be done.
According to a count kept at the website icasualties.org, roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices are listed as the cause of death for 648 Americans killed in Iraq, almost one third of the 2,107 U.S. casualties.
On Saturday morning, Angus, 40, a Marine from St. Paul who had returned to Iraq this year for his second tour, became No. 649.
The official military record said he died in an explosion caused by an improvised explosive device. It's not clear if it hit him while he was riding in a vehicle or if he was defusing the weapon, his family said.
The blast occurred near Camp Taqaddum, about 45 miles west of Baghdad, officials said. Angus is the 28th Minnesotan to die in the Mideast during the war in Iraq.
"He was an honorable man and an outstanding professional soldier. He will be missed," said David Angus, Brett's uncle and a family spokesman.
Angus was only the latest member of his family to enter the military.
His father was drafted to fight in Vietnam. His grandfather fought in World War II. The family traces its military history back to the Civil War, said David Angus, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War.
"We believe in duty and honor," David said. "We may not agree as a family with what's going on, but we still believe we have a duty if they call."
Brett Angus entered the service in 1982 and was promoted to master sergeant June 1, 2005. He earned several awards and medals for his service. Brett Angus was proud to serve in the military,
but his family strongly opposes the Iraq war, said David Angus.
"The family as a whole is opposed to everything this administration is doing. Everything," he said.
Brett Angus was based in Camp Pendleton and his unit was attached to the Second Marine Aircraft Wing. He lived with his wife, Masami, in Oceanside, Calif. She was not available for comment.
Angus' father, Russell, lives in St. Paul but asked a family member to speak for him. The tragic loss of his son comes as only the latest disaster for Russell, who in 1976 was the sole survivor of a St. Paul house fire that killed his second wife, Linda, their 6-month-old daughter and Linda's three children from her first marriage, ages 2, 4, and 6. The children were Brett's step-siblings.
Angus' mother died of an illness when he was young.
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