Amidst all of the media overkill of Michael Jackson’s death, the sacrifices of our military men and women have gotten even shorter shrift than has been typical from much of the media.
So, it was refreshing to read this piece in yesterday’s Washington Post about the return of Lt. Brian Bradshaw to the U.S. Bradshaw was killed in Afghanistan the same day the so-called “King of Pop” died. While the media may have largely ignored Bradshaw’s sacrifice, his comrades in arms did not.
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."
I encourage you to read the rest.
In a similar vein, you should also watch this video (via Patterico and Jack Dunphy) on the arrival of the hearse carrying the body of Sgt. John Beale who was also killed in Afghanistan. Ask yourself the question Dunphy asked: Would your town similarly honor a fallen warrior?
Lt. Bradshaw and Sgt. Beale RIP.