Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Also on that Sunday, we received a phone call from Iraq--LTC Robert Brown who was in command of the Stryker Brigade called in the middle of the afternoon which must have been rather late in his evening. He was able to give us a few more details about the day Thomas died. All we knew up to that point was that he had been killed in combat. We didn't know why he was in combat, whether he had been in the Stryker vehicle or anything about the battle, except what we had seen in the news. As Col. Brown told me what he knew of the story, I realized that this was what we would be telling people and please God that I remember it right, because this story was going to take on a life of its own. As far as I can tell, I did indeed get it substantially correctly--we talked afterwards to eyewitnesses and accounts were reasonably well-matched to the story I originally heard.

The facts seem to have been these: Thomas was a Stryker driver who hated driving. His vehicle had been damaged in combat earlier in the week which gave him the opportunity to volunteer to go missions in other positions. This day, he was a rear air guard, which was apparently the riskiest of the positions since you were exposed from the chest up. They were wrapping up their patrol when Thomas was hit by a sniper using armor-piercing ammunition--it went through the helmet. Feeling was that he died instantly, though they did work on him at the field hospital. We received a letter a few months later from a young man who wanted us to know that a priest had administered Last Rites.

Thomas was the third to die in that rotation of the Stryker Brigades. The first two had died in separate incidents on Tuesday--Thomas died on Thursday. Col. Brown and I discussed that briefly, as there had been some difficulty in locating next of kin for one of these men and the release of his name had been delayed several days.

Why would I have even known that? I'd been visiting the StrykerBrigade News site http://www.strykernews.com/ for a couple of weeks, basically since Thomas's deployment to Iraq. The SBN site posts news articles, blog links, hosts a bulletin board, and maintains a list of the fallen, with links to any news articles that they are aware of. I have continued to follow the Stryker brigade news because, well, because. It left me feeling more connected to my son and his friends and that became important later on.

I'm going to be thinking about 9/11 for the next couple of days, and what changed for us that day.


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