Army Spc. Alexandre A. Alexeev e-mailed his sister from Iraq on May 27, assuring her that he had safely completed a mission and was back on base. As always, he downplayed the risks of being stationed in Diyala Province, one of the most dangerous areas, and looked forward to visiting his family in Moreno Valley and clubbing with friends in Los Angeles during an upcoming leave in July.
The next day, Memorial Day, the 23-year-old Wilmington resident -- known by friends and family as Sasha -- was killed along with four other soldiers when they were sent on a rescue mission to a downed helicopter and their Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Abu Sayda.
“That was the thing about him,” said sister Ekaterina Perminov, 18, of Moreno Valley. “He didn’t tell most people what he was doing; he only cared about what was going on here. He was more worried about us, telling me to go to school, worrying about Mom. Whenever I actually managed to find out something, he would always be like, ‘Don’t tell Mom, she’s going to worry. Make sure she doesn’t find out.’ ”
Alexeev, a native of Russia, moved to California with his family nearly a decade ago, as his homeland was struggling with its evolution into a market-based economy and grappling with unfathomable inflation. His mother, who had served in the Russian Air Force and worked as a professional skydiver, was seeking a better life for her two children and settled in Lake Arrowhead and then Hawthorne, where Alexeev graduated from high school.
Music, fast cars, ice hockey and computers were Alexeev’s passions. Interest in the latter prompted him to study at ITT and to join the Army about two years ago so he could earn money for further education. He hoped to pursue a career in computer programming, police work or, inspired by his mother’s background, flight.
“He wanted to become a man. He wanted to improve himself,” said his mother, Elena Alexeeva. “He told me, ‘Don’t worry, everything’s OK.’ He lied for me because he told me it was not dangerous.”
Alexeev was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
While at Fort Hood, Alexeev met Elena Smith, 23, of Killeen, Texas. Smith, also a Russian native, recalled meeting the handsome young man with sparkling blue eyes and wide smile at a nightclub.
“Sometimes we didn’t have money to go out, but he always could make every day nice,” she said, reminiscing that when cash was tight, the pair would sit in his parked car and listen to music for hours, stay up all night talking and looking at the stars, or take early morning walks at a lake. They planned to wed, possibly during Alexeev’s leave in July, Smith said.
“He was just the best guy ever,” she said. “He just enjoyed every day in life. Every day for him is like the last day.”
Smith said Alexeev told her of the fears that he kept from his family.
“It was hard for him; it was really difficult,” she said. “Every day he didn’t know what’s going to happen. Some people who he worked with died right there. He never knows when a bomb’s going to blow up. He’s always telling me, ‘I hope everything’s going to be fine, but you never know what’s going to happen in the next five minutes.’ ”
Alexeev was awarded posthumous citizenship. His family sat vigil with his body overnight at San Secondo d’Asti Catholic Church in Ontario before he was buried June 9 at Olivewood Memorial Park in Riverside.
In addition to his mother, sister and fiancee, Alexeev is survived by his father, Igor Perminov of Australia.
Times staff writer Ann Simmons contributed to this report.
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Total U.S. deaths*:
* In and around Iraq**: 3,535
* In and around Afghanistan***: 338
* Other locations***: 61
Source: Department of Defense* Includes military and Department of Defense-employed civilian personnel killed in action and in nonhostile circumstances
**As of Friday
***As of June 16