A U.S. Marine Corps carry team transfers the remains of Marine Cpl. Keaton G. Coffey of Boring, Ore., at Dover Air Force Base, Del., May 26, 2012. Coffey was assigned to 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, 1st Marine Headquarters Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Adrian R. Rowan)
|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Cpl. Keaton Coffey, Oregon Marine killed Thursday in Afghanistan, was to be married in July
Published: Saturday, May 26, 2012, 8:20 PM Updated: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 4:40 PM
By Nicole Dungca, The Oregonian
Cpl. Keaton G. Coffey was just weeks away from a new chapter of his life.
The gifts had been registered at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and the invitations had been sent: In July, the 22-year-old planned to marry Brittany Dygert, a local hair stylist whom he met through his mother.
But on May 24, the Marine was killed during his second tour of duty while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
He had been assigned to 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, 1st Marine Headquarters Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was the 153rd service member with Oregon and Southwestern ties to die in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to a list compiled by The Oregonian.
Coffey was the only child of Grant and Inger Coffey, of Boring, and attended the nearby Damascus Christian School from kindergarten to his senior year. He graduated in 2007 and briefly attended George Fox University shortly before joining the Marines.
"He was one of the good ones," said history teacher Linda Urbanowski, who taught him from seventh through 12th grade.
Tim Oakley, the former principal of Damascus Christian School, described Coffey as "every parent's dream."
He was polite, respectful, kind and considerate, Oakley said. Coffey wasn't an "out front" leader, Oakley added, but was liked well enough to become student body president during his senior year.
Nobody was surprised by Coffey's move to join the Marines; his father, who has spent more than 35 years at Portland Fire & Rescue, helped the younger Coffey learn the importance of public service, they said.
"He had an attitude and a heart of service," said Bob Dennis, a family friend. "He put himself out for other people."
Throughout his deployment, the Coffeys often worried about their son's fate, and tried to keep in daily contact.
"We knew he was in a dangerous place and he had taken on a dangerous mission," said Urbanowski, his teacher. "We were just hoping that he'd be OK."
Many also noticed how much his service had done much for his confidence and sense of self. He seemed more of a leader, Urbanowski said.
During one of his leaves, Coffey had surprised Urbanowski at her classroom. She glanced up at the door and saw a young man in uniform. "He looked different, with that Marine posture and that Marine haircut," Urbanowski recalled.
Occasionally, she learned more about his new life from e-mails and letters from him or his family. She learned about a tattoo he had gotten in honor of one of his best friends from training camp, who had died during his first tour.
"I know he grieved deeply," she said. "I was going to see him soon and he was going to show me that tattoo."
In recent months, conversations had turned to the wedding, which Urbanowski planned to attend. Coffey's mother raved about his future bride, and told Urbanowski how the young couple would eventually move to Camp Pendleton.
Eventually, Urbanowski said, Coffey wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become a firefighter himself.