"A Nation reveals itself not only by the the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers..." President John F. Kennedy
From a news report I came across several days ago:
“The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
1st Lt. Brian N. Bradshaw, 24, of Steilacoom, Wash., died June 25 in Kheyl, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry.”
Brief, concise, and to the point.
That’s how these announcements are always written.
It’s never enough. Not by a long shot.
Brian Bradshaw was one of us - a Washingtonian.
He was also one of a long line who’d volunteered to serve in the armed forces because they simply thought it was the right thing to do.
There will always be arguments about whether any war is necessary but, given our history as a race, it’s a pretty good bet that there will always be wars. Some more necessary than others.
As a nation, our history in this arena started more than 230 years ago when a group of upstarts decided to found a nation and declare its independence. Even then, there were arguments about doing that since it would involve war. Thankfully, there were those who believed that it was the right thing to do.
Shortly thereafter, our armed forces - what there were of them - were pitted against the most formidable fighting force of the time. It took years, but this rag-tag army eventually beat the best the world had to offer.
That wasn’t the end, though. Over the years, there were more wars and more men and women who volunteered to serve because they believed that, at the time, the fight was necessary.
Eight years ago, on a bright and sunny morning in New York City, yet another group of fanatics with a chip on their shoulder and notions on human rights that would keep anyone up at night decided to pick a fight. Once again, our troops were sent to respond. Brian Bradshaw eventually became one of those troops.
From the stories I’ve read, he comes across as what we’ve always been able to produce - good, solid people. Ordinary people who believe in the idea of service. People who believe that, for all our faults and problems, we’re still a great nation founded on ideas that are worth fighting for.
Brian Bradshaw’s family has a military background. Both of his parents served in uniform. His father is a retired National Guard helicopter pilot and his mother is a retired Army nurse.
As a teenager, he was a member of a Search and Rescue organization and was also a counselor at a Catholic Youth Organization camp. He was a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and, while there, was a member of the ROTC program.
In the Army, he’d achieved the rank of First Lieutenant - a junior officer. That meant he was on the ground. He had troops to lead and was with them daily. He was expected to look after their safety and well being and to do so under circumstances where the possibility of violent death was a constant. He stood a post. He carried a weapon. He was at the tip of the spear.
Brian Bradshaw died on June 25, 2009. It would speak well of us if we were to remember him.
Were we to do so, it would quiet some of those who argue, with more than a grain of truth, that we’re not a nation at war but, rather, a nation with its armies at war. Who argue that while our soldiers fight, we are “a nation at the mall.”
We should want to hear about men and women like Brian Bradshaw. We should want to know what they were doing, why they chose to serve, and how - in some cases - they died.
We should read, see, or hear these things and, then, if only for a moment, stop and offer a silent thanks.
First Lieutenant Brian Bradshaw of Steilacoom, Washington died in the service of his country on June 25, 2009. He was a soldier of the United States.
Michael Jackson died the same day. He was an entertainer.