BY SARAH NAGEM (used by permission www.newsobserver.com)
CLAYTON -- Mark Bradley had dreamed of becoming a Marine sniper since he was a little boy.
The dream came true for the Marine based at Camp Lejeune when he graduated from sniper training in December and was deployed to Afghanistan on March 1.
"It was something he always wanted to do," said Bradley's wife, Samantha Bradley, 22.
A sergeant assigned to 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, Bradley, 25, of Clayton died early Thursday, 13 days after he was severely injured by an improvised explosive device in Helmand province. He was on his first tour in Afghanistan but on his fifth tour of duty as a Marine.
Doctors amputated both of Bradley's legs above the knee, his wife said. His lungs had collapsed, his kidney and liver failed, and he suffered brain trauma. Doctors operated on his heart.
A few days ago, Bradley's condition seemed to be improving, his wife said.
"He opened his eyes for me," she said, adding that he would respond to her voice after he was transferred from a hospital in Germany to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
But Wednesday, his brain began to swell, Samantha said, and surgeons performed an emergency operation.
"They just could not get the bleeding to stop," she said.
Bradley was taken off a ventilator around 1 a.m. Thursday.
Bradley did not grow up in Clayton, but it became his weekend home when he joined the Marine Corps eight years ago after he finished high school in Cuba, N.Y. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune, and his mother had moved to Johnston County.
It was during a weekend visit that Bradley met Samantha, who graduated from Clayton High School in 2007. The couple married two years ago.
They were best friends, she said, and her husband's strength was apparent early.
"He was definitely a fighter," Samantha said. "If there was something he wanted to achieve, it got done."
Bradley's younger brother, Steven, 23, a Clayton High School graduate, is also a Marine sniper and is serving in a different part of Afghanistan, Samantha said.
The military was a family tradition for Bradley, his wife said. His father and grandfather both served.
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