Branden F. Oberleitner, of the Columbus suburb of Worthington, Ohio, felt compelled to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, friends said. He was killed June 5 in Fallujah, Iraq, when his unit was fired on by a rifle-propelled grenade.
Oberleitner was passionate about military service, said Kevin Earhart, who worked with Oberleitner at a gasoline station before he enlisted. “That’s all he wanted to do,” he said.
Oberleitner was a 2001 graduate of Thomas Worthington High School. He took classes to prepare for a firefighting career at a vocational school in Delaware, Ohio, his junior and senior years.
Friends say he was always tinkering with cars, and for years seemed to be working on the same car in his driveway. Friend and classmate Tyler Louk laughed as she remembered seeing Oberleitner elbow-deep in grease and working on the car the night of the senior prom. “He wasn’t into the social scene,” she said. “He went his own way.”