Family, friends and comrades remember Troutdale's Brad Lindsey
Before her husband, Staff Sgt. Nathaniel 'Brad' Lindsey, was killed by Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Joyce Lindsey wrote him a love letter.
She never had a chance to mail it.
But during his funeral service on Friday, Sept. 22, that letter laid over his heart, nestled in the breast pocket of his military best.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, Taliban militants ambushed Lindsey's convoy while patroling the Afghanistan province of Zabul, a known Taliban stronghold.
Lindsey, 38, of Troutdale was one of more than 900 Oregonians from the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Task Force who deployed to Afghanistan in early June as part of Joint Combined Task Force Phoenix. Their mission is to help the Afghan National Army become a professional military corps and rebuild the war-torn country.
During the fallen soldier's funeral, about 450 mourners filled the pews of New Hope Community Church in Southeast Portland.
Shania Twain's 'Forever and for Always' played in the background. It's a song Lindsey dedicated to his wife while he was deployed in Iraq from February 2003 to April 2004 as a member of Gresham-based C Company, 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry.
His wife sat in the first pew directly in front of Lindsey's flag-draped casket. Covering moist eyes with one hand, Joyce wrapped her other arm around her daughter Michelle, 8, pulling her close. The girl proudly wore her father's military beret to the service.
Lindsey's three stepchildren - who he raised as his own - also sat in that first pew. Kailina Don, 22, reached over, patting her mother's shoulder, a ring from her Memorial Day nuptials gleaming.
A host of speakers remembered Lindsey as a loyal man, a proud American and a brave soldier.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski evoked Shakespeare's King Henry VI to describe Lindsey's courage.
'I am a soldier unapt to weep or to exclaim on fortune's fickleness,' he began. 'Fortune's fickleness brought him and his convoy to an illegal check point in Afghanistan, where he stood his ground, protected his fellow soldiers, honored his nation and died a hero.'
Lindsey, Kulongoski added, 'was the best Oregon has to give.'
The Portland native began his military career as a cook in the Navy. He served four years before joining the Oregon Army National Guard in 1996.
Lindsey served six months in Saudi Arabia in 1999 and 2000, 15 months in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and last year spent two months helping flood-ravaged Louisiana residents in Hurricane Katrina's wake.
Upon his return to Troutdale, Lindsey could have stayed stateside with his family, Kulongoski said.
'But Brad Lindsey's great physical strength and moral courage led him to a greater choice,' he said.
In part to protect a fellow soldier and close friend, Col. David Stuckey, Lindsey volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan. While waiting for Stuckey to deploy, Lindsey was assigned to the 205th Regional Corps Advisory Group headquartered at Kandahar Airfield.
There he worked a safe desk job as a radio transmission officer.
But that's not where Lindsey's heart was.
'He wanted to be with the boys,' Chaplain Daniel Thompson said. 'He wasn't an office guy.'
As Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees put it, 'Brad Lindsey didn't talk of courage, he lived it.'
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, Lindsey traded his duties at a secured military base for a dangerous assignment about 100 miles north of Kandahar.
Two days after becoming embedded with the Afghanistan National Army, Lindsey was on patrol with fellow U.S. and Afghan soldiers when his convoy approached a false checkpoint or roadblock in the town of Shajoy.
Taliban militants attacked the armored Humvees with improvised explosive devices or rocket propelled grenades, followed by small arms fire. Lindsey, a gunner in a Humvee turret, died of a head injury. He was the first Oregonian with the 41st Brigade Combat Team to die in Afghanistan and the Oregon Army National Guard's 15th casualty.
In Lindsey's honor, a new base in Afghanistan will be named 'Camp Lindsey' and a new offensive involving 500 soldiers will be called 'Operation Lindsey.'
Stuckey recalled a tense moment in Iraq, when a downed soldier needed medical attention and the split platoon had lost communications. The nearest relay station was a mile away and the commanding officer asked for volunteers to walk with him.
Lindsey was first to raise his hand.
On a lighter note, Stuckey also recalled Lindsey's nightly ritual of changing into pajamas - even in the field. After endless ribbing from Stuckey, Lindsey found a pair of camouflage pajamas and gave Stuckey a pair.
'Here sir, these are for you,' Lindsey said, with a gleam in his eye.
Lindsey had a keen sense of humor, a warrior spirit and a sense of duty.
'Soldiering is what he loved to do,' Stuckey said.
That and being a father.
Lindsey had an unspoken understanding with his stepson, Marcus Laureta, 25, a member of the Oregon Army National Guard who served two years in Germany and a year in Iraq.
He loved playing video games with stepson Brandon Laureta, 20, and didn't mind that Brandon constantly beat him at Halo.
Coaching Michelle's soccer team also brought him endless joy.
Absorbing the enormity of their loss, Lindsey's fellow soldiers gripped their tissues. Fidgeting and squirming in the church pews, they cleared their throats and sniffled.
A few - among them Lindsey's oldest stepson - tried to subtly wipe away tears.
Some soldiers know when to weep.