Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lt. Brian Bradshaw, United States Army

Lt. Brian Bradshaw, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, was killed in Afghanistan on June 25.That is the same day Micheal Jackson died. Since that date there has been a constant drumbeat of news stories about the singer. His musical CD's are featured in stores along with special magazine editions that are a tributes to his life. When I was in New York and Washington DC vendors were selling his picture on just about every corner.

Enough has been said about Michale Jackson, today, I want to write about Lt. Brian Bradshaw of Steilacoom, Washington.He was a 2007 graduate of Pacific Lutheran University. His father said his son joined the Army and went to Afghanistan "to try and help people" and to make the lives of the people there better. The Seattle Times reports:

Paul Bradshaw said he talked to his son by telephone on Father's Day.

"He said that where they were at you couldn't recognize if they were making a difference, but they had made friends in that area."

The danger was obvious, his father said, but whenever his son spoke about it "he was worried about all his men ... not himself."

"He would be tired when he called us," his father said. "But ... he was always upbeat. He was very happy when we sent packages. What he asked for was things to give away to local children there.

"When they were out on patrol they would take crayons, colored pencils and books and toys to give to the children."

Lt. Bradshaw came from a military family. His father is a retired National Guard helicopter pilot; his mother is a retired Army nurse.

He was killed by a roadside bomb. The following letter was published by the Washington Post about his trip home:

Dear Bradshaw Family,

We were crew members on the C-130 that flew in to pick up Lt. Brian Bradshaw after he was killed. We are Georgia Air National Guardsmen deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. We support the front-line troops by flying them food, water, fuel, ammunition and just about anything they need to fight. On occasion we have the privilege to begin the final journey home for our fallen troops. Below are the details to the best of our memory about what happened after Brian’s death.

We landed using night-vision goggles. Because of the blackout conditions, it seemed as if it was the darkest part of the night. As we turned off the runway to position our plane, we saw what appeared to be hundreds of soldiers from Brian’s company standing in formation in the darkness. Once we were parked, members of his unit asked us to shut down our engines. This is not normal operating procedure for that location. We are to keep the aircraft’s power on in case of maintenance or concerns about the hostile environment. The plane has an extremely loud self-contained power unit. Again, we were asked whether there was any way to turn that off for the ceremony that was going to take place. We readily complied after one of our crew members was able to find a power cart nearby. Another aircraft that landed after us was asked to do the same. We were able to shut down and keep lighting in the back of the aircraft, which was the only light in the surrounding area. We configured the back of the plane to receive Brian and hurried off to stand in the formation as he was carried aboard.

Brian’s whole company had marched to the site with their colors flying prior to our arrival. His platoon lined both sides of our aircraft’s ramp while the rest were standing behind them. As the ambulance approached, the formation was called to attention. As Brian passed the formation, members shouted “Present arms” and everyone saluted. The salute was held until he was placed inside the aircraft and then the senior commanders, the sergeant major and the chaplain spoke a few words.

Afterward, we prepared to take off and head back to our base. His death was so sudden that there was no time to complete the paperwork needed to transfer him. We were only given his name, Lt. Brian Bradshaw. With that we accepted the transfer. Members of Brian’s unit approached us and thanked us for coming to get him and helping with the ceremony. They explained what happened and how much his loss was felt. Everyone we talked to spoke well of him - his character, his accomplishments and how well they liked him. Before closing up the back of the aircraft, one of Brian’s men, with tears running down his face, said, “That’s my platoon leader, please take care of him.”

We taxied back on the runway, and, as we began rolling for takeoff, I looked to my right. Brian’s platoon had not moved from where they were standing in the darkness. As we rolled past, his men saluted him one more time; their way to honor him one last time as best they could. We will never forget this.
We completed the short flight back to Bagram Air Base. After landing, we began to gather our things. As they carried Brian to the waiting vehicle, the people in the area, unaware of our mission, stopped what they were doing and snapped to attention. Those of us on the aircraft did the same. Four soldiers who had flown back with us lined the ramp once again and saluted as he passed by. We went back to post-flight duties only after he was driven out of sight.

Later that day, there was another ceremony. It was Bagram’s way to pay tribute. Senior leadership and other personnel from all branches lined the path that Brian was to take to be placed on the airplane flying him out of Afghanistan. A detail of soldiers, with their weapons, lined either side of the ramp just as his platoon did hours before. A band played as he was carried past the formation and onto the waiting aircraft. Again, men and women stood at attention and saluted as Brian passed by. Another service was performed after he was placed on the aircraft.

For one brief moment, the war stopped to honor Lt. Brian Bradshaw. This is the case for all of the fallen in Afghanistan. It is our way of recognizing the sacrifice and loss of our brothers and sisters in arms. Though there may not have been any media coverage, Brian’s death did not go unnoticed. You are not alone with your grief. We mourn Brian’s loss and celebrate his life with you. Brian is a true hero, and he will not be forgotten by those who served with him.

We hope knowing the events that happened after Brian’s death can provide you some comfort.

Capt. James Adair
Master Sgt. Paul Riley
GA ANG 774 EAS Deployed

He was 24.


UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Robert Louis Stevenson. 1850–1894

It is comforting to know that this nation still produces such men.