"These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation
who has a long history of patriotism and honor -
and a nation who has fought many battles
to keep our country free from threats of terror."

-- Michael N. Castle

Saturday, February 03, 2007

One Young Hero

When Sketch told me about the bike, one name flashed immediately in my mind. In part, this bike is personal for me, too - because as a tribute to fallen Heroes, one of the people that Sketch is honoring with this bike is a young Soldier from South Dakota named Gunnar Becker.

Gunnar was well liked by everyone who knew him. Ironically, even as a kid, he was wearing the "Big Red One." He joined the Army because “I came in to make a difference.” PFC Becker served as a tank driver with Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon, in the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment. On January 13, 2005, Gunnar lost his life in a non-combat-related accident while serving in Iraq. He was 19.

Gunnar's loss hit his family and his military brothers hard. It also was hard on the Soldiers' Angels who'd known him. I had been one of the Angels monitoring the KIA lists at that point - we would make phone calls to adopting Angels to break the news. While nothing compared to the grief of a Soldier's family, we Angels worry about our adoptees, rejoice at homecomings, and grieve, too. Our adoptees become a part of our extended family, at least until they return home. Sometimes even later, if they choose to stay in contact with us.

In the aftermath of Gunnar's death, we all got to know his Mom, Debey, a little bit. She is an amazingly strong woman, who will readily tell you that her son was a Hero. Rather than blaming his military service for his death, she appreciates her son for the brave young man that he was.

I remember a phone conversation I had with Debey. We talked about the drought that was happening in South Dakota then, and how they were worried about the farms that were starved for water. We talked about her grandson, and how he was a little devil, just like Gunnar had been at that age. We talked about Gunnar.

I'd recently posted over at my blog about an anti-war display in which the names of fallen Heroes were used without the permission of their families in order to make a point. Gunnar's name was one of those. Debey hadn't been pleased, and she wasn't alone. No matter your view on the war, using the names of fallen Heroes to advance a political agenda, without the consent of their families, isn't right. Debey had forwarded the information to me, and asked me if I'd post about it.

A little while later, Debey sent me some photos of an entirely different use of Gunnar's name. She sent me the pictures of his headstone. Debey had honored her son with a beautiful stone, a fitting tribute to her beloved son. I posted those, too. I told Debey I hoped I'd done him justice.

And now, almost two years to the day that we lost a young Hero named Gunnar Becker, I got a chance to be involved in a project honoring fallen Heroes. It seems that PFC Becker isn't quite done with us yet. So for me, this project is for all Fallen Heroes, but just a little bit about one Hero in particular.

And there are, sadly, a lot of Gunnars, and a lot of Debeys - fallen Heroes and grieving families. My involvement in this project is small compared to Sketch's, but I hope that what we're doing, in some small way, helps to let them all know that we will never forget.

We are soldiers.
We are soldiers in the United States Army.
We are trained to be all we can be.

We fight for the freedom of many citizens of the United States.
We are all ready to meet our fates.

We all volunteer to defend the red, white and blue.
Not only the flag, but for the citizens of our great country too.

Since our country's birth for all these years,
we have been trained to be the best on Earth.

Many times we have went to war.
We will be involved in many more.

Generation by generation soldiers continue to enlist.
Some of us will got to war and definitely be missed.

Some soldiers will return and some won't.
Those who do not, we won't forget and we hope you don't.

Many of us are going to Iraq.
Some of us won't be coming back.

We have loved ones we are leaving behind.
They will always be in our prayers, hearts and mind.

If we don't make it home safely at the end of the war,
just remember we died defending the beliefs of those of many more.

-- PFC Gunnar Becker, November, 23, 2003
(Killed in Iraq, January 13, 2005)

If you'll check out the comments section, you'll see that Debey (Gunnar's Mom) stopped by, and she's posted about the project on her blog...thank you Debey. I knew I'd seen a picture of Gunnar that I wanted to post, but couldn't find it. Debey has it, and I swiped it to add here - just another reason that this project for me is a little about Gunnar:

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So who is Pam?

You've already heard from Sketch - I thought I'd let you know a little about who I am, particularly since I know some of Sketch's family and friends are going to be checking in on the blog.

First of all, I'm a pure civilian. I am an avid (or rabid) supporter of our troops. I joined Soldiers' Angels in early 2004, and have never looked back. The reason I joined was that I made a promise to myself a long time ago that what happened to returning troops from Vietnam would never happen again - at least, not in my little corner of the world. As it turns out, my first adoptee is now headed back for a second tour in Iraq.

I'm also the blogger of Iraq War Today (iraqwarnews.net). (Note: The views expressed at that blog are solely mine - it should not be assumed that Sketch and I share the same opinions on everything)

My relatives have served in every major U.S. war, starting with the American Revolution. My father-in-law is a veteran of three tours with the Special Forces in Vietnam. Desert Storm is the first U.S. engagement that hasn't seen one of my relatives on the front lines (although if I'd joined when I was looking to, I likely would have been there).

At any rate, how I met Sketch was that Patti, the founder of Soldiers' Angels, let me know about a recently submitted Hero who was an avid motorcyclist. As I'm a motorcyclist too, I happily became one of Sketch's "Angels."

In emailing with Sketch, we talked about his dream of a custom-built bike, and how he wanted to use it to pay tribute to fallen Heroes. A little brainstorming, and here we are. Soldiers' Angels signed on to be a part of the project, too.

So, I'm helping Sketch with the project from here, while he's over there, and will stay involved once he's safely back at home.

It's an honor to be involved in this project, and an honor to be Sketch's "Angel."

So, you'll see me posting here, and I'll be answering many of the emails we get. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll be back to check the progress of the bike as it goes.