Late last month, 24-year old US Army LT Brian Bradshaw, described by a family member as "a search-and-rescue volunteer, an altar boy, a camp counselor," died while serving his country in Afghanistan. For Paul and Mary Bradshaw's family, June 25th memorializes the generosity and sacrifice of their son.
LT Bradshaw's life came to light via a Washington Post op-ed piece written by his aunt, Martha Gillis, who rightfully questioned the ceaseless coverage of Michael Jackson's passing at the exclusion of war coverage and acknowledgements of America's KIAs. Gillis' few lines unexpectedly generated numerous media inquiries, including Fox News. Martha Gillis reiterated on network television her stance, offered practical suggestions on how to assist military families coping with a deployed family member, and fondly remembered her nephew.
Remarkably, Gillis television appearance took place just one day after Bradshaw's full military honors funeral at St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Lakewood, WA. Inside the church, over six hundred attendees saw Bradshaw's flagged draped coffin resting beneath the banner of a life-sized image of Divine Mercy.
Department of Defense reports indicate LT Bradshaw and other soldiers narrowly escaped once an IED exploded, impacting their vehicle. Bradshaw and his men left the vehicle to escape on foot when a second IED detonated moments later as a civilian truck passed by. That second explosion resulted in severe injuries leading to Bradshaw's death.
In his junior year of high school at Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington, Brian had written: "Service (to others) is the foundation of life...Without service our lives have the same impact and meaning as a stick lying on the ground. No one remembers the sticks stepped on in the woods, but everyone remembers the flowers...If we serve and work throughout our lives, we will be the flowers that everyone remembers."
He carried this conviction with him into Afghanistan. Bradshaw was no stranger to service. Both his parents retired from the military- his father Paul served as a NG helicopter pilot and his mother Mary as an Army nurse. Brian joined the Army in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Well aware of the surrounding dangers, Bradshaw put service to and for others above personal self-interest. His father recalls "he was very happy when we sent packages. What he asked for was things to give away to local children there." Remembering a Father's Day phone call from his son in Afghanistan, Paul Bradshaw noted his son "was worried about all his men. He was worried about the people he was responsible for, not himself."
At Brian's funeral Mass, Rev. Lee Hightower noted Bradshaw "went to Afghanistan firmly believing he could help people suffering over there. It was there that he lay down his life for us. No greater love has anyone than to lay down his life for another."
Two memorial funds have been established in his honor:
The Brian Bradshaw Memorial Fund, Pacific Lutheran University, Office of Development, Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
The Brian Bradshaw Memorial Fund, Catholic Youth Organization Camps, c/o St. John Bosco, 10508 112th Street SW, Lakewood, WA 98498
This article appears courtesy of CatholicMil.org.