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Blast kills Utah GI outside Baghdad
As a kid, Rocky Payne loved military tanks and trucks. Grown, he protected and delivered the mail for the U.S. Army in Iraq.
On Wednesday, Payne was killed in an explosion outside of Baghdad. Payne, 26, a former Marine and current member of the Army's 497th transportation group from Fort Lewis, Wash., died at about 5 a.m. MST, his older brother Randall said from his home in Tremonton a day after being told of his brother's death.
"We're all very shocked, frustrated and disheartened," Randall Payne said Thursday.
He said he knew little about the circumstances of Rocky Payne's death except that an improvised explosive device, or IED, had detonated, killing Payne and injuring or possibly killing two other soldiers.
The Army contacted Payne's parents, Dennis and Marie Randall of Howell, late Wednesday in Overton, Nev., where they spend the winter.
Randall Payne said his father, a former military man himself, was doing "as well as could be."
"My mom," he said, "has lost her baby."
Rocky Payne's parents where expected to return to their farm Friday night to rejoin extended family.
Growing up in the small town of Howell, population about 250, Rocky Payne was the youngest of five boys, including Rory, Russell and Ricky.
He didn't have a lot of friends, his brother said, but he was close to those he did have. He particularly loved his nieces and nephews, and played a lot of video games with them when he was home.
And he did grow up to drive an Army truck. "As a young boy it's really what he wanted to do," Randall Payne said.
Rocky Payne also was a bit of a prankster, Randall Payne recalled. At Randall's wedding reception, 6-year-old Rocky and Russell, then 7, hid behind a curtain while the newlyweds shook hands with their guests. When the time was right, both boys jabbed their older brother in the behind with a hair pin.
"I'd do anything if that kid would sneak up behind me and poke me in the butt again," Randall Payne said half-jokingly.
After graduating from Bear River High School in Tremonton, Rocky Payne held odd jobs and tried unsuccessfully to find a job as a diesel mechanic. He joined the Marines at 20, serving four peacetime years. His name was engraved on a memorial to service members in Tremonton, as was his father's.
Rocky Payne came home after his Marine tour, but again had trouble finding a job. At the encouragement of some military friends, he joined the Army a little over a year ago. He was serving his second tour in Iraq when he was killed.
Randall Payne said he last received an e-mail from his brother about two weeks ago, and that his correspondence "had gotten darker" over time. The soldier had witnessed more trouble and attacks and unrest, his brother said. "He was world-weary."
Randall Payne said his mother told him to remember that Rocky "died doing what he loved and doing it with the people he loved working with."
The Army said Rocky Payne's remains would be brought home some time next week. The family hopes to bury him in the Howell cemetery, where his parents have plots. The date of services will be set later.