Qixing Lee had plans for his life after serving in Iraq: Marry his fiancee, buy an Acura car.
Those plans came to a halt Sunday afternoon when Lee, a 20-year-old from north Minneapolis, died while on foot patrol in Taji, just north of Baghdad, a military spokesperson said Thursday.
Military officials also said Thursday that a soldier from the 1st Brigade of Minnesota's 34th Infantry Division was killed in Iraq on Wednesday afternoon by an improvised explosive device.
The soldier was not identified nor was a hometown released pending notification of family members.
As dusk settled Thursday evening, Lee's family prayed in their neat white duplex on Logan Avenue N. His sisters said they weren't certain what had happened to their brother.
They were holding out hope that somehow, he was just hurt and would return home.
"He's a very kind person," said his older sister, Xiaomei Lee, 21.
Lee grew up one of six kids, graduated from North High School in 2004 and enlisted in the Army shortly thereafter, his sisters said.
"He's open-minded and very lovable," Xiaomei Lee said, adding that he was looking forward to his discharge in May.
Lee was one of four soldiers in the 1st Battalion of the 66th Armored Regiment, based at Fort Hood, Texas, who died in an explosion Sunday, said Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks.
They were on foot patrol when a device exploded about 3 p.m., Banks said. One of the soldiers was Specialist Shaun A. Novak, 21, of Two Rivers, Wis.
In Texas, where Lee trained before being deployed late last year to Iraq, Tabitha LaRocca had been keeping her eyes peeled for Lee's Acura. She said the chatty, dance-loving, video-game-playing
"sweetheart" befriended her husband while both were training at Fort Hood last year.
"He will always be in my heart," she said. "I loved him like he was one of my own siblings."
LaRocca said Lee visited them nearly every day last year at her house in Killeen, Texas. It was there that he reveled in almost daily barbecues, and frequently washed the dishes no one else would touch, she said.
"Lee's a sweetheart, very respectable," she said.
He was troubled by a friend's death in Iraq this summer, LaRocca said. Her husband, who is also serving in Iraq, always characterized Lee as an "alert" and careful soldier, she said.
The 34th Division soldier killed Wednesday died while conducting a route security mission, according to a military news release issued in Iraq.
The National Guard division has its headquarters in Stillwater and includes more than 5,000 soldiers from 22 states, including 2,600 from Minnesota.
Its mission is to safeguard logistics convoys and bases throughout Iraq, said Minnesota National Guard spokesman Maj. Kevin Olson. It is headquartered in south-central Iraq, he said.
More than 40 soldiers with Minnesota ties have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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