A U.S. Marine from Champaign County died in a motorcycle crash only days after marrying his high school sweetheart.
Brandon Laughman, a 2015 Graham High School graduate, died as a result of injuries he sustained in a single-vehicle motorcycle crash on June 12 in San Diego, where he was stationed.
Laughman was planning to return home soon to his wife, Kaytlin Laughman, a 2017 Graham graduate, and the two were set to start a cross-country honeymoon on their return to California in July.
“They had only been married for 10 days,” said Nickey Maddy, Kaytlin’s mother. “They had dated for three years … they absolutely adored each other. They had something very special.”
Kaytlin Laughman said she knew from the moment they started dating that she wanted to be with him.
“I just knew from the start that he was the one,” she said. “He always treated me with respect and was always there for me when I needed him.”
The two met during gym class when Brandon was a senior and Kaytlin was a freshman. She said he would always try to get her attention, and once he had it, the two knew they were meant for each other.
Kaytlin said he proposed to her on a beach in Pensacola, Fla., with the help of her family. She said when he popped the question, she couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.
“I knew that I wanted to be with him forever,” she said.
Laughman’s interests included 4-wheelers and hunting.
Laughman was a member of a car club in San Diego, and several of its members gathered to pay tribute to him at a makeshift memorial at the crash site. The club recorded a video tribute with a motorcycle and several custom vehicles traveling down the road in the evening.
Laughman’s mother, Melissa Laughman, said her son knew even as a child that he wanted to serve his country. His grandfather was a Marine, and Laughman wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“He did, he served his country,” she said. “That’s one thing I’m so proud of him about.”
“He was a special kid. He’ll always be my little boy. I know a lot of people think of him as this grown adult and big Marine, but he’s just a special boy.”
Laughman, who was a mechanic in the Aviation Logistics Division, was “very ornery” according to his mother, but also very protective of the family he loved.
“We always had to say ‘I love you’ and we always left with a hug and a kiss,” she said. “It was never goodbye — I’ll see you soon.”
In the days since Laughman’s death, his mother said she’s received countless phone calls from Marines and their mothers.
“He’s touched so many people,” she said. “It’s weird how those guys stick together, but that’s what they do. I think that’s what makes them so special and why we look up to them.”
Like mothers often do, Melissa Laughman said she cautioned her son about purchasing a motorcycle, but also realized he was an adult and had to make his own decisions.
“I told him to please be careful,” she said. “He was good with wearing protection. If he was living here under my roof, he would never have had it.”
Laughman’s body is being prepared to be transported back to Ohio this week for a full military funeral and service, according to the family.