A Colorado Marine who died in a car crash in Utah on Friday was traveling home to surprise his little brother on the first day of school.
Lance Cpl. Brennan Ching, 20, was stationed in Las Flores, California. The 2012 Rocky Mountain High school graduate had a habit of surprising his little brother, Alexander Vicary, 8. The two shared "a special bond," said the boys' mother Sue Vicary, of Fort Collins.
Ching taught his little brother how to tie his shoes, went fishing with him frequently and read to Alexander almost every night when he was home from the Marines.
"Every day, Alex would talk about Brennan, whether it was morning, noon or night," Vicary said. "At least two or three times, he'd create a new way of making a wish to bring him home. Brennan taught him the things only a big brother could do."
With almost every wish, Brennan would come home. The Coloradoan featured Ching in a March 2013 story and video when he came home to surprise Alexander for Easter. The little boy had sent the Easter bunny a letter asking to bring his brother home.
"Everyone I talked to has read (the Coloradoan) story," Sue Vicary said. "I've had people coming to my door today who I've never met in my life ... They remembered the story."
Ching called his older sister, Sarah Ching, 23, Friday, to say he was planning another surprise. He wanted to take Alexander to his first day of second grade at Bauder Elementary School.
He planned the trip with his friend and fellow Marine, Jesus T. Paredes, 21, of Fallbrook, California. Ching was a passenger in the black Chevrolet pickup when it rolled about 6:30 a.m. Friday on Interstate 70. He was killed instantly.
Alexander didn't know his brother was coming home to see him. Sue Vicary said he picked up a leaf after being told his brother died and made a wish that his brother would come back to him.
"All these times, he's believed and seen that his wishes would come true," she said. "But there's no amount of leaves he can pull to make that come true."
Alexander got on the bus and went to school like many other children in Poudre School District on Tuesday morning. Just before walking out the door, he turned to his mother.
"Wasn't Brennan supposed to take me to school today?" he asked.
"I said, 'Yes, but you know what? He still is," Sue Vicary replied. "He's right beside you. If you have a math quiz today, I betcha he'll help you with the right answer.' "
Brennan Ching's memorial service is 11 a.m. Aug. 26 at Faith Evangelical Church, 3920 S. Shields in Fort Collins. All who knew him or were touched by his story are welcome to attend.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests you make a donation to the Brennan Ching Memorial Fund at any FirstBank location.
Sarah Jane Kyle is the Coloradoan reporter covering volunteerism, nonprofits and philanthropy. Follow her on Twitter @sarahjanekyle or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/reportersarahjane.