Friday, July 14, 2006

Thanking My Lucky Stars and Stripes and the Heros Who Gave Them To Us

It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

- Charles M. Province

The only reason I can sit here right now and enjoy the idea of living in America is because I stand on the memory of men and women who saw a reason to fight for freedom. Without their heroic efforts and determined will, none of us in America or even in some other countries would be enjoying the lives that we live today.

And because of that patriotism, there are those today who still believe in that freedom, whether it is being fought for on this land or on foreign soil. These soldiers ready themselves in different fashions, in different garbs, in different ways. Some serve in the Navy, some in the Airforce, some in the Army and some in the Marines. All of them serve for freedom. Some of them to the death.

On June 6, 2006, Private 1st Class Brian J. Bradbury, 22, Lowville, New York, formerly of St. Joseph, Missouri, was fatally injured June 21, 2006, when he encountered enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades during combat operations in Naray, Afghanistan.

Pfc. Bradbury was a fire support specialist, assigned to the 71st Calvary Regiment 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. He deployed with his unit to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in February.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

He leave behind a wife Stephanie, his two daughters - Jasmine and Jailynn, two brothers and his mother, Rhonda, who says Brian was a good-hearted, thoughtful, christian father who loved his family.

Unfortunately this story does not end here.

As a combat medic, Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig understood that, sometimes, saving people means risking his own life.

Craig, 28 of Severn, MD, died on June 21, 2006, while trying to lend a helping hand. He was killed when his UH-60 helicopter hoist malfunctioned while attempting to evacuate Pfc. Bradbury during combat operations.

Heathe was assigned to the 159th Air Ambulance Medical Company, Wiesbaden, Germany.

He is survived by his wife Judith and their two children, Jonas, 5, and Leona, 1 in Germany, his father and stepmother, Jeffery and Sheila Craig of PA, and his mother, Donna Sloan of PA.

When remembered by friends, they said "He as a great wrestler, great guy, a good friend, and a good teammate" who was "always there to support anybody who needed it."

Sgt. Krendra Jackson, one of Craig’s close friends, couldn’t keep herself from crying as she talked about her fallen comrade during the memorial service at Wiesbaden Army Airfield’s chapel. She told how Craig, even after back surgery, would work tirelessly, laboring beyond his body’s limits, afraid that he might come off as a slacker. Jackson remembers telling him to take it easy. “He would look at me with those blue eyes and say, ‘My name’s not worthless.’” Few in attendance could hold back their tears as Jackson recounted her friendship with Craig. “Judy, you once told us we acted like brother and sister. He was my brother,” she said. “He was our brother.”

To these brave soldiers, I say thank you for your commitment, your vision and your gift of freedom. Your works will not go unnoticed nor your sacrifices unappreciated.

I pray God's blessings and comfort to each of these men's families. May they remember with pride the service these soldiers performed for them and for our country.

Never, never, take freedom for granted. Never, never, forget who died for your freedom.

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