My Brother the soldier servant
My brother Josh is my hero...to sum up his life in short is not possible, but I can share a few things, out of many more that I have learned from his life and death. He was the oldest of three boys and I was the youngest. Josh was always my security while growing up. My other brother Milam was the instigator of the brotherly fights, usually on the easier prey, myself, as I was five years younger. I relied on Josh a lot to take up for me. He was smart and I always viewed him strong on the inside and out. He had to deal with a lot of hard days when our family moved to Reno, NV from Spartanburg, SC. CULTURE SHOCK! As a freshman in high school at the time of our move, he overcame those days and later served as the Student Body President of his high school and was the Commander of NJROTC before graduating. He received an appointment to West Point (United States Military Academy) and also to The Naval Academy in Annapolis. He chose West Point because he was drawn to their code "duty, honor, country."
Josh graduated in 1996 and served as Executive Officer of the Honor Committee on the Brigade Staff during his senior year. He was commissioned as a 2nd LT when he graduated from West Point at the age of 22. He led men almost twice his age that had served a long time and I remember that being such a burden on him as a fresh 22 year old LT. He did all he could to earn respect from his men by going through Ranger School and getting his much sought after Ranger Tab, grooming, training and later graduate school where he earned a Masters degree with honors. He told me that he didn't want to lead anyone that had accomplished more than he had ever tried. He led by example.
By this time I had decided to follow my brother Milam’s footsteps to pursue music, as it had been my way of coping through hard days of my teenage years when switching high schools from the several moves my family did. I always wanted to be like Josh and go to West Point or the Citadel and fulfill my dream of being a fighter pilot in the military. Once I saw how hard it was through watching Josh's experiences I quickly decided that I was going a different route! So I started playing drums like crazy so I could be a rock star instead.
Josh went on to be a great leader. He moved up in rank to Captain and continued leading more and more men. He ended up in Kuwait for 6 months defending Saddam’s threat against Kuwait. He then became the Aide de Camp for General Hondo Campbell at Ft Carson, CO. He was in this position when 9/11 occurred. As we were home wondering who did this to our nation, Josh reassured me that they knew who it was and they were going to take care of it. He told me he was ready to go at all costs.
When the war in Iraq began, Josh's unit, The Brave Rifles of 2/3 ACR, prepared to deploy. He had looked forward to the day he could become a Company Commander since his days at West Point. During the summer of 2003 his dream came true and he because the commander of Fox Troop, he had accomplished his dream. Throughout his command they encountered many battles, bad guys and crazy missions that had Josh on recon alongside Special Forces units. Josh had to meet with Sheiks and religious leaders there in Iraq to establish new law and begin making it a safer place. Collecting intel, storming into buildings full of al Qaida, rescue missions and some Robin Hood stuff that inevitably put a price on his head. They took notice of Josh's leadership when he began collecting the bad guys and stopping the terrorist way of making money. He and his men seized a gas truck from al Qaida and gave all the gas away to the community, “Robin Hood” style.
There are many other stories of saving lives of his soldiers and of innocent Iraqi civilians. Trudging over mine fields to carry a boy to safety, and saving his candy he got from his MRE's (meal ready to eat) and from care packages so he could comfort the children during raids on homes of al Qaida members to arrest them and collect intel. He loved kids.
On July 23, 2003, (Our mom’s 50th birthday), my brother Josh was killed in action by a road side bomb (IED - Improvised Explosive Device) that was detonated along his route from Ar Ramadi to Al Fallujah, so they could be assured it hit his humvee. Josh then said his final words and it was his last order to his men, "Keep Moving Forward". That command saved a lot of lives. His driver told our family that he said that to him in his last breath.
So, I will tell you what I have learned from Josh since he was killed that fateful day. Josh was a born again Christian soldier. He was a servant leader. He served the supreme sacrifice by dying for us and our country. He served God, his family and his USMA pact of Duty, Honor, and Country. I've heard from his fellow soldiers that he would even ask the lowest Private on the team what they thought about an upcoming mission. Many commanders wouldn't dare ask someone like a private what they thought, but for Josh it was a sign of him being a humble and caring commander to his men. He served his men the best he could. On one occasion he sent his soldiers out to buy chickens so they could have chicken races and games to help kick morale back up when it was low. He was a good leader that genuinely cared for his men and women all the same and wanted to get them home as soon as possible.
Josh served in battle, he served his troops, he served his country, he served his wife Kim, our family, friends and even strangers and it was his calling from God to do so. We are called to serve those around us. Jesus is our best example of this as we read many passages in the Bible of His servanthood. We serve our families, our friends, our churches, our communities, and anywhere God asks us to serve.
God has used Josh’s death in so many ways to change people’s lives. HBO did a documentary where his letters are read by our family along with 9 other families. President Bush quoted his writing in a Memorial Day speech, and we now have a 5k & 10k race to raise funds for soldiers and their families to support those that have a hard time coping with life after war. We are still meeting soldiers that served with Josh and hearing about the impact he had on the war, and more importantly the impact he had on the soldiers lives, and even the lives of terrorist’s families, and Iraqi civilians.
It is no coincidence I am now playing drums with Audio Adrenaline, as our band feels called to serve the least of these. Caring for the orphans in Haiti is our main prerogative as a band now.
I have learned that God is with me all the time. "In my pain He shouts, in my joy He whispers." -C.S. Lewis. I have heard the cliches like ‘God will not give you something you can't handle’. While believing that, in my experience of losing my brother and best friend, I've found that it seems to be misquoted. I believe God gave me more than I can handle on my own when I began living without my brother. God showed me that there is nothing that HE can't handle. We are not just spiritual beings, but physical as well. If God would have healed me from my pain immediately, I wouldn't have learned anything through these years. Now I see the body of Christ differently. We are here to serve others and I'm thankful for my family, friends, doctors and counselors that have helped me through the depressing days and nights I was faced with over my brother’s death. Through their service in my life I feel as though I was like a guitar that was out of tune and God is stretching, bending, and tuning my strings to someday make that perfect pitch for the Glory of God.
I'm still being tuned and many of you are too. The sadness of this world is real, and it’s a part of us here on earth until we find our way home to The Lord. Until then, God has a plan for you and me and He will never turn his back on us. I've gone through many days, weeks and months that it didn't feel like He was there, but we are human and feeling, seeing, and hearing is our natural tendency to look for comfort. God has so much more than that for us that we can't imagine, with his Angels and saints around us every day. God loves us. Matthew 10:29-31
Like Josh's last words, we must “Keep Moving Forward!” We cannot let Satan’s lies pull us down, don't let the memories or blame from your past keep you away from Gods work. Keep Moving Forward!
So to those soldiers that are awaiting deployment, on deployment, or fresh home from a deployment. To those who never came home from their deployment and their families. Your service is forever in our debt, and you will always be our brave hearts and souls that were willing to fight for us and this lovely country, the U.S.A. God bless you!