Growing up in Pembroke, Massachusetts, Brian McPhillips knew the military was important to his family. His uncles served during World War II and his father was a Veteran of Vietnam. McPhillips frequently attended the yearly Memorial Day ceremony in his town with his father.
“Even though people thought the Vietnam War was a lost cause, David showed up to honor those who had died in Vietnam,” said his uncle Jim Finigan in a 2003 article for the Boston Globe. “Brian would be a small boy at those. I think Brian was inspired by [his father’s] example.”
While attending Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, McPhillips joined the Marine Corps. After graduating in 2000, he received his commission as a second lieutenant. After training in Quantico, Virginia, McPhillips attended tank school in Kentucky before he transferred to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. There, he became part of the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division and worked as a tank platoon commander.
In 2003, McPhillips transferred to the 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division and went to Iraq as part of the forces supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served as the commander of a platoon that worked with tube-launched, optically tracked, wireless-guided missiles. In April, he commanded a scout sniper platoon after an injury to a platoon commander.
On April 4, 2003, while traveling in a convoy to Baghdad, enemy forces ambushed the convoy near Al Jisr. According to a 2005 interview his father did for the Concord Oral History Program, “[McPhillips’ comrade Corporal Vaughn] said that Iraqi civilians were warning the Marines not to go any farther. They were flashing their headlights, waving their arms, beeping their horns and yelling ‘stop.’ Corporal Vaughn said to Brian, ‘Do you see this?’ Of course, Brian had the headsets on talking in the radio to command that was five or six miles back. They were telling him to proceed forward. So they ran into the ambush.”
McPhillips countered the enemy fire at the convoy. Later, a bullet fatally wounded him. He died that same day.
McPhillips was buried at Saint Bernard’s Catholic Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. During his service, he received a Navy Achievement Medal. He posthumously received a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. A group stated a scholarship at McPhillip’s high school in his honor in 2003. A Marine Corps League in Brockton, Massachusetts, named their detachment for him in 2014.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion