It was his second tour of duty in Iraq. We all hoped it would be his last. I suppose it will be now. Brad is seriously burned, has a shoulder injury, a broken ankle, and has lost one leg. I was told that a female suicide bomber detonated an explosive of some type nearby.
I just got word from his aunt in Paducah that he is being flown to Brooks Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas. She also said that he was able to squeeze a nurse’s hand when asked. “Ft. Sam” has one of the best military hospitals in the world. He’ll get the best care possible.
Brad is in the 101st Air Assault, stationed at Ft. Campbell when “home.” He is married and has a nearly three-year-old son, also named Bradford. Little Bradford was born around Thanksgiving while Brad was home on leave from his first tour of duty in Iraq. The doctors planned to induce labor for his wife Charlotte, so he could be present for the joyous event. Little Bradford must have known that his father was home and was born without having to be induced. Again, we hoped Brad would never return to that war. He re-enlisted to gain a hefty bonus to continue to support his wife and son.
I guess I am still in shock, not denial, just stunned. On his first tour, he was wounded in an incident that I do not know much about. He didn’t talk about it, or the war as a whole. “Someday I’ll tell you about it, because there’re some stories to tell,” he told me before he returned this time. Maybe I hoped lightning wouldn’t strike twice.
His deployment overseas was nearly at an end. The Army notified my aunt Nancy not to send any letters after July 25 because they could be shipped home at the end of this month or next. We breathed cautious sighs of relief that this tour was at an end, and he survived unscathed.
Brad grew up in Paducah. He graduated from Tilghman High School, and is every bit a “Western Kentucky Boy.” He loves hunting, fishing, country music and Maker’s Mark. When I visited Paducah as a child, we always played together. Once he got mad at me, because I caught a fish with nothing but beginner’s luck, and he went away empty handed. Of the kids in our clan, he and I are close in age, so we spent a lot of time “goofing off.”
Right now, I am relieved that he can be sent home to the United States. Currently, he is in Germany, where the most serious of injuries are evacuated.
A lot of people are angry about the war. Some have said that we should bomb the Iraqis. I can’t bring myself to hate the Iraqi people, terrorists or even the woman who detonated herself. I think hate is what did this to my cousin. She could have been angry about an American bomb that destroyed her home, or maybe maimed or killed her cousin, or father, brother or husband. Whether the bomb was dropped from an F-15, shot from an Apache, she might have been angry for the same reasons I should be now.
I am morally and philosophically opposed to the war, but I cannot blame the President or the government like Cindy Sheehan. Brad was not drafted. Like every other man and woman, he volunteered to serve in the Army. He knew his risks and elected to take them. I do not blame Brad for that, either. He loves the Army, and performed his duty to his fellow citizens and his buddies in his unit without reservation. He would not have it any other way. I thank Brad and everyone else in the Service for this attitude. I hope the government does not turn its back to him and other veterans and survivors of veterans who gave so much.
But I can’t bring myself to hate. I can’t bring myself to lay blame for a situation that is as unstoppable as it is out of control. If I hate the enemy and condone more violence against them, then I am as wrong as the woman who took her own life to maim my cousin. It seems that hateful words and hateful deeds only provoke more of the same. This war will not stop. It is fueled by hate. I am going to stop hating today.
I only hope that Little Bradford does not grow up full of hatred. A child’s life should not be spoiled like that. Revenge should not be plotted when a boy is almost three.
As of August 20, Brad was in San Antonio to begin the long process of healing. I am told that he is in good spirits. His wife and parents are scheduled to join him on August 21.