Marine Lance Cpl. Dale Means wasn't afraid of going to Afghanistan and saw it as an opportunity to honor his country, a family member said, reflecting on the death of the 23-year-old soldier from Minnesota.
Means was killed Sunday while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, the U.S. Department of Defense said Tuesday.
Means' sister, JoLyn Means, said the family was told her brother was killed by an improvised explosive device in the southern part of the province. Means was part of a 15-vehicle convoy when his truck hit a roadside bomb. He was riding as a gunner and was the only Marine killed, his sister said.
Brian Tupy was one of two best men at Means' wedding in October 2011. Tupy told the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/TdC8GV ) that Means was a big influence on his life and made him want to be a better person. So Tupy followed in Means' footsteps and joined the Marines nearly a year ago. Means had enlisted in early 2011.
"He was in boot camp when he told me that being a Marine is such a great feeling," Tupy said. "To call ourselves a United States Marine, well, it's something almost unexplainable."
Tupy said he and Means shared everything.
"He's my best friend and he was supposed to come back," Tupy said. "We had so many plans, all the snowmobile and four-wheeling we had ahead of us."
Family and friends described Means as funny, kind-hearted and honest. He was working in an automotive repair shop when he joined the Marines, JoLyn Means said.
"He said he wanted to do something important and not just the same old, same old," she said. "I called one of my friends, crying that my brother was making a decision that would change his life, potentially take his life someday."
"Don't get me wrong, I'm proud — beyond proud," she said. "But it didn't make me any less scared."
Means' cousin Joey Larsen said the thought of being sent into war didn't seem to worry the Marine.
"There wasn't fear in his eyes," Larsen said. "It was about honoring the Corps. Honoring the country."
Means was deployed to Afghanistan in July on his first tour of duty. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, the Defense Department said.
Means graduated from New Prague High School in 2007. He lived with his wife, Andrea, off-base at Camp Lejeune, N.C.