On The Day Lt. Bradshaw Died For His Country…
I have, on several occasions, quoted or referred to Letters to the Editor. Letters written daily by thousands of regular Americans, containing unbelievably good common sense and wisdom—sometimes, sadness and frustration. Letters that, in my opinion, are an accurate barometer of how regular Americans feel about the problems and issues that face our nation.
One such letter appeared in the Washington Post two weeks ago, on July 5.
But first some background.
On June 25, the same day that pop star Michael Jackson died, a young American hero, Lt. Brian Bradshaw, was killed in Afghanistan.
Tragically, during the week that followed Lt. Bradshaw’s death, through the Fourth of July, six more American soldiers gave their lives for our country in Afghanistan.
(Most of the names and faces of our heroes, who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom since the beginning of the year, can be seen at “Faces of the Fallen,” at the Washington Post.)
Almost as tragically, the U.S. media hardly covered or honored these losses. The media was too busy with and too focused on giving wall-to-wall, 24/7 coverage to the death of Michael Jackson.
The parents and family of Lt. Bradshaw were deeply affected by the media’s insensitivity.
Some of those feelings were reflected in a Letter to the Editor written by Lt. Bradshaw’s aunt, Martha Gillis, published by the Washington Post on July 5.
The letter, titled “A Life of Worth, Overlooked,” says, in part:
My nephew, Brian Bradshaw, was killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan on June 25, the same day that Michael Jackson died. Mr. Jackson received days of wall-to-wall coverage in the media. Where was the coverage of my nephew or the other soldiers who died that week? There were several of them, and our family crossed paths with the family of another fallen soldier at Dover Air Force Base, where the bodies come “home…”
He was a search-and-rescue volunteer, an altar boy, a camp counselor. He carried the hopes and dreams of his parents willingly on his shoulders. What more than that did Michael Jackson do or represent that earned him memorial “shrines,” while this soldier’s death goes unheralded?
It makes me want to scream.
On July 15, in “A Soldier Comes Home,” the Post published excerpts from a moving letter written by Air National Guard Captain James Adair, pilot of the aircraft that flew Bradshaw’s body from a forward base in Afghanistan to Bagram Air Base. Capt. Adair wrote the letter in response to Ms. Gillis’ letter and the letter was later published with the permission of Brian Bradshaw’s parents.
In the letter to the Bradshaw family, Capt. Adair describes the honor it was for Adair and his crew to “begin the final journey” for Lt. Bradshaw; the care they took to make this part of the journey as dignified and reverent as humanly possible:
We landed using night-vision goggles… 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…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.
As to the love, respect and sorrow shown by the troops serving with Lt. Bradshaw:
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.
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.
The letter, signed by Capt. Adair and Master Sgt. Paul Riley concludes:
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.
Lt. Bradshaw finally arrived home, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, on June 27.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration reversed an 18-year ban on news coverage of the return of war dead, allowing photographs of flag-covered caskets when families of the fallen troops agree.
Because of this change in policy, Americans were able to get a fleeting glimpse of Lt. Bradshaw’s final homecoming.
Nevertheless, the shamefully paltry media coverage Bradshaw and other heroes received, compared to the inordinate coverage of the pop star’s death, is simply inexcusable.