Like so many of us at Borah High School, dismay engulfed me when I learned of Brandon Titus' death. When I was the newspaper adviser, he was my sports editor. This was the fall of 2001. Like most things in his life, Brandon was passionate about his role with the paper. His morning custom was to come in, look for the reporters he had writing stories for him, and gather them together, pep-talking them through their deadlines. He pretended to be exasperated with their laziness and lack of focus. He knew, though, that he had been there himself. Other teachers remember similar scenarios. One of his football coaches, Quane Kenyon remembers Brandon much the same way: as a kid who teased his way into your life. "He was a smart aleck at times, but you could tell he had an inner goodness," Kenyon says. "He made me laugh on numerous occasions when he would come into the coaches' office and proclaim that he was glad that he never acted like 'those sophomores.' Then he would smile his smile and I would see the twinkle in his eye and I'd tell him, 'No, Titus, you were always worse.'"
Like so many kids his age, Brandon tried on different attitudes almost daily. Aloofness, indignation, indifference, righteous rage: he certainly tried them all. He was still fresh in his youth, still finding out who he might become.
The terrible morning of September 11, the Borah newspaper staff sat and--like millions of Americans--watched the towers explode and fall, watched as this country changed forever. Brandon watched, too. Although I didn't know it then--didn't see the transformation, something clicked within him. His passionate nature, his unequivocal desire to always try and make things right, set him on the path that quickly became so perilous.
Another of his coaches, Ron Hindberg, knew what 9/11 caused in Brandon. Brandon wanted to fight for his country, but he also had his future in mind. "He had already made his plans," Hindberg says. "He would join up, get on the G.I. Bill, get his degree, come back and coach and teach at Borah."
His teachers and coaches at Borah were lucky, of course. We knew him before he became another awful statistic. We knew him as a passionate young man with a sharp wit, a quick smile, and with the whole bright world before him. His death has taken its strongest toll on those left behind. We have memories of Brandon, and they can certainly offer moments of shared happiness. Still, his early death has blown a hole in his school's family the size of his young vitality.
It is never "right" or "just" when a young person dies--it's not the accepted way for things to happen. The fact that when wars are waged young people die often seems as remote as the war itself--until your own life is touched by such a death. It is hard, then, regardless of the circumstances, to reconcile Brandon's death in some kind of altruistic way. Ultimately, his death is just another horrible reminder that life is a precious thing that is rarely, if ever, fair.
Specialist Brandon Titus of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was killed in Iraq on August 17 after encountering an explosive device while on patrol in Baghdad. A memorial fund has been established at Idahy Federal Credit Union, 1010 Rose St., Boise, ID 83703. An all-ages benefit to raise money for funeral expenses is scheduled for Sunday, August 29, 3 to 8 p.m. at Mr. Lucky's parking lot, 4902 Chinden Blvd. Public viewings take place at Alden-Waggoner Funeral Chapel, 5400 Fairview Ave., on Saturday, August 28, noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday, August 29, 1 to 8 p.m. Services will be conducted Monday, August 30 at 1 p.m. at St. Mark's Catholic Church, 7503 Northview. Burial will follow at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. Titus will be the first veteran interred at the recently completed cemetery. Titus graduated from Borah High School in 2002. He was 20 years old.