KERRVILLE, Texas — The 1,000th American serviceman killed in Afghanistan had already fallen once to a hidden explosive, driving his Humvee over a bomb in Iraq in 2007. The blast punched the dashboard radio into his face and broke his leg in two places.
Marine Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht didn't survive his second encounter with a bomb this week. The death of the 24-year-old Texan born on the Fourth of July marks a grim milestone in the Afghanistan war.
Leicht, who spent two painful years recovering from the Iraq blast, was killed Thursday when he stepped on a land mine in Helmand province that ripped off his right arm. He had written letters from his hospital bed begging to be put back on the front lines, and died less than a month into that desperately sought second tour.
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.
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"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."
When military officers went to tell Leicht's parents that their adopted son had died in combat, sheriff's deputies had to help navigate them to the 130-acre family ranch tucked deep in the Texas Hill Country.
It was here that Leicht chopped thick cedar trees and hiked the rugged limestone peaks, growing up into a 6-foot-5, 200-pound 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.
Nine days before his brother stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, Jesse Leicht enlisted in the Marines. Using Facebook to reach a friend stationed at a base not far from his brother, Jesse asked the soldier a favor: If you see Jacob, let him know I signed up like him.
"Hopefully," Jesse Leicht said, "he got the word."