A 25-year-old Marine from Maple Lake, Minn., died Wednesday when a bomb exploded in Iraq, two days after a soldier with strong Minnesota ties died in a similar explosion.
Sgt. Chad M. Allen, whom his father described as a "very well loved young man," was killed while driving a light-armored vehicle in the Anbar Province.
He was on his second deployment in Iraq and was scheduled to leave the Marines on May 1, said his father, Steve Allen of Danbury, Wis.
On Monday, former Coon Rapids resident Army Sgt. William (B.J.) Beardsley, 25, was killed by a roadside bomb in Diwaniyah, about 100 miles south of Baghdad.
He and Allen were the 52nd and 53rd people with Minnesota ties to die in connection with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Allen joined the Marines the day after the Sept. 11 attacks, said his mother, Deborah Allen, also of Danbury. "He was going to save his family from harm," she said Thursday.
His parents said he volunteered for a second tour of duty in Iraq to take the place of an injured fellow Marine.
Allen was assigned to the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Allen's father said his son had told him Sunday that he had been promoted to sergeant. Chad, the second of four children, had grown up in Maple Lake and graduated from high school there.
Bart Kilgo, Allen's friend since kindergarten, said, "He was an all-around great person, the best friend I ever had," Kilgo said Thursday night.
The two played high school football together - Allen played guard on offense and linebacker on defense - and remained close friends even throughout their military careers.
Kilgo left the Marines after serving two tours in Iraq.
Allen worked for a car wash and a landscape company before joining the Marines.
He loved to fish, ride his motorcycle, and was homecoming king in high school, his mother said. "He was awesome, he was the coolest kid," she said. "He was very happy, very outgoing, never could sit still for a minute."
Beardsley's stepmother said the same was true of her son.
"He was always upbeat and in a good mood," said Dianna Beardsley of Blaine.
B.J. Beardsley had called his father, Jim, in Blaine last Friday.
When the phone rang Tuesday, it was with the news that Beardsley had died Monday in Iraq.
A native of Muskogee, Okla., Beardsley spent three years in the Army right out of high school. He left the Army briefly and moved to Coon Rapids in 2002 to work for his father's excavation company.
After three years in Minnesota, world events became more important than excavation, and Beardsley reenlisted, Dianne Beardsley said.
"He saw what was going on and he really believed that we needed to fight for this cause because there was evil out there," she said.
But Beardsley's support for the war was fading during the first seven months of his Iraq tour, according to his mother, Lavonna Harper, who lives in Oklahoma. She said she had received an e-mail from her son a few weeks ago in which he had said he couldn't make sense of the war anymore.
`I ... told him to be careful'
"I wrote him back and told him to be careful and keep his head down and his butt covered," Harper said. "I asked him what he needed me to send and when he was coming home."
She never got a response.
Beardsley was recently divorced from his wife, Stacy, who lives in Indiana with their 4-year-old son, Chance, and a 3-year-old daughter, Alexis.
Beardsley was set to fly to Indiana on leave April 8 to celebrate Chance's 5th birthday.
"He loved his kids and was a great brother," said Cassie Borden, 22, Beardsley's sister, who also lives in Blaine. "He was a character, for sure, always quick-witted and he loved anything to do with motor sports and motorcycles."
As a child, Beardsley moved to Germany and Georgia with his mother and stepfather, a career military man. He returned to Oklahoma when he was 16.
Beardsley's first stint in the Army included time in South Korea. When he reenlisted, he was assigned to the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Troop Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, Ga.
His funeral will be held in Indianapolis, and his Minnesota relatives plan to hold a memorial service.
"I'll miss talking to him, hearing his voice, touching him, just hearing me say the words `I love you, son,' " Harper said. "When they're gone, it's like, `Oh my God.'-"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.