The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.
We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.
~ Archibald MacLeish
Tonight we honor one brave soldier who died alone in Iraq, and three who died together in Afghanistan. Let us honor their sacrifice by living good lives.
Pfc. Christopher A. McCraw, 23, of Columbia, Mississippi
Pfc. McCraw died Oct. 14 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he encountered small arms fire while on dismounted patrol in Nasar Wa Salam. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Pfc. McCraw was laughing when the cellphone he was using to talk his father cut out. It was to be their last call.
Avon McCraw clearly remembers the last time he talked with his son, Pfc. Christopher McCraw.
"I was talking with him on the cell phone, and he was laughing when it cut out," said Avon, of Marion County. "That was the last time I got to hear his voice, his laughter."
"We all knew the danger was there, but I didn't expect this to happen," Avon McCraw said. "I'll probably never get over it, but I don't want to because he was my child."
Christopher McCraw comes from a family of soldiers, with Avon's brothers, Jerry and Monroe, both having served in the Army. Christopher McCraw's brother also served in Iraq and came home two years ago with post-traumatic stress disorder, a family member said.
There was no mistaking Christopher's sweet sense of humor, friends said.
"Chris was just a charmer, an all around, happy-go-lucky kid," said Wendy Bracey, his Sunday school teacher at Woodlawn Pentecostal Church in Columbia. "He was a prankster with a sweet smile. I remember he would always sneak up behind me, then tap me on my shoulder trying to scare me."
Christopher McCraw called Columbia home until his parents separated as he entered high school. He moved with his mother to North Carolina, where he eventually graduated.
Jerron Carney, 28, of Columbia said Christopher was always loyal to his friends in Mississippi and would always stop by to say hello when he was in town.
"He was a favorite of mine. He will be missed by a lot of people, and I know I'm one of them," he said.
Army Pfc. Christopher A. McCraw was an energetic young man who was looking forward to coming home from Iraq and marrying the mother of his young son.
"The whole family is pretty much in shock," said the soldier’s uncle, Jerry McCraw. "It’s about the worst thing you can have is a military chaplain and (a sergeant) show up at your house."
"He was a good kid. He was there doing his duty for us," Jerry McCraw said Thursday in a telephone interview. "He was always a happy kid, a bursting-with-energy-type kid. I guess what you would call a perfect soldier."
Christopher McCraw’s brother also served in Iraq and came home two years ago with post-traumatic stress disorder, their uncle said.
A single shot killed a Schofield Barracks soldier in Baghdad on Tuesday — a month after he told his mother how he had watched a bomb blow up two children and two Iraqi policemen, the soldier's father said yesterday.
The gunshot hit Pfc. Christopher A. McCraw in the abdomen below his armor, said McCraw's father, Avon McCraw, during a telephone interview from his home in Columbia, Miss.
McCraw's unit came under gunfire while they were on foot patrol in the Baghdad neighborhood of Nasar Wa Salam. He died less than an hour later at an Army hospital, his father said.
An older brother, Sean, had previously been in Iraq and returned but is still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, the father said.
Avon McCraw said that more than a month ago Christopher McCraw had told his mother about a horrifying bomb explosion.
"He was so close that the blast threw him backward," Avon McCraw said. "The kids had come to them and said they saw the explosives being put in the ground. The (Iraqi) police went to check on them and the bomb blew up.
"He said that even if they could have put the bodies together they still couldn't have a funeral for them because someone would just walk into the funeral and try to blow everybody up. That's how it is over there."
(His father said): "I give the Army credit for giving him direction. Before he went in he was straying and we were all encouraging him to go into the military. If nothing else the Army helped him with that. He believed in what he was doing."
Sean McCraw, Christopher's older brother, is having a particularly difficult time since learning of his brother's death, their father said.
"Sean isn't taking it well," the father said. "He was here when the Army came to tell us about Christopher.
Avon McCraw said Christopher was scheduled to return to Mississippi on leave at the end of this month after having his February leave delayed.
"He couldn't wait to see his son," McCraw said. "He and his fiancee were going to get married as soon as he was out of Iraq."
Pfc. McCraw is being mourned by fellow members of the Stryker Brigade.
Pfc. McCraw joined the Army in February 2006 and went to basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He was stationed at Schofield before being deployed to Iraq in December 2007, where he was stationed at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad.
Pfc. McCraw is survived by his fiancee and their one-year-old son, Isaac Curtis McCraw, by his parents, and by two brothers and a sister. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Thank you, Pfc. McCraw. Godspeed. Your mission is done.
Spc. Cory J. Bertrand, 18, of Center, Texas
Spc. Bertrand died Oct. 14 in Qazi Bandeh, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Spc. Bertrand was due home for leave in November. He was looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving ~ and his 19th birthday ~ with his family.
Cory Bertrand's teenage years were spent playing in the front yard of a white frame house. His stepgrandparents live there in the Neuville area of Shelby County. His grandfather, Johnny Allen recalls the quality time they spent together. "We shot guns together and we walked the place here together. I do some mechanic work and he enjoyed being with me while I was doing that."
The country boy decided to join the Army at age 17.
His young age, required his mother, Charlotte Allen to sign the enlistment papers. She agreed so her son could have the future he wanted. She's too sad to talk, but her pastor, Charles Boster, delivers her message:
"She would want people to understand that now is a great difficult time. She does not blame the country. She does not blame the government for sending him, but she would, she just hates the fact that he's dead and would like to have him back. "
Now there are only memories and pictures.
Cory was scheduled to come home next month for his 19th birthday and Thanksgiving. His grandmother, Lillian Allen, was looking forward to the homecoming. Now she's preparing for a funeral. "He felt like he was doing his job to protect not only his family, but his country and he saw a purpose for his life, " said Allen.
Spc. Bertrand joined the military in January 2007 as an infantryman and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division since June 2007. He deployed to Afghanistan in July.
Spc. Bertrand's military awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and NATO Medal.
Funeral services for Spc. Bertrand are scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at Mangum Funeral Home Chapel in Center. Burial with full military honors will follow at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Shelbyville.
Thank you, Spc. Bertrand. Godspeed. Your mission is done.
Spc. Stephen R. Fortunato, 25, of Danvers, Massachusetts
Spc. Fortunato died Oct. 14 in Qazi Bandeh, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
At the airport when he deployed, Spc. Fortunator's mother wanted to "reach out, grab hold of her son, and never let him go."
Among the flood of memories that rushed through Elizabeth "Betty" Crawford's mind yesterday was the time in July she stood at Logan Airport watching her son, Army Specialist Stephen Fortunato, as he prepared to leave her and New England.
"I knew I was sending him back to a war zone, [and] I didn't want [the Army] to have my son," she recalled yesterday. "But the other part of me said this is what he wanted to do. He was a soldier. This was his job. It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life."
"My son Stephen was very affectionate and a loving kid," Crawford said of her 25-year-old son. "He was the jokester, all the time. But he was also a dedicated soldier. He went into the Army like anyone else, a kid. He came home as a man."
Since joining (the Army), he had served in Korea, but in July he was assigned to the First Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and was deployed to Afghanistan.
He returned to Beverly for a three-week break, which ended Sept. 26. He then spent about two weeks working his way back to Afghanistan and had been there only briefly when he was killed, his family said.
Fortunato was from a prominent Beverly family, which includes a former mayor and school superintendent. He grew up in Danvers and Beverly and graduated from Beverly High School in 2002, his family said.
He tried studying graphic arts at North Shore Community College, but decided he was not ready for college, his family said. He enlisted, choosing the Army because he wanted to be in combat. "That's where he wanted to be, in the middle of it," his father said.
Fortunato was the oldest of three children, and his younger siblings were at their mother's side yesterday, offering support and memories of their brother.
Sherri Favaloro, whom Stephen Fortunato married in 2006, said yesterday the couple's marriage had been stressed to near the breaking point by his service.
They had begun divorce proceedings. But, she said, they were in constant contact over the phone and Internet and were trying to patch things up, especially during his leave in September.
"He had brown hair, green eyes, and the biggest smile in the world," she said. "He was a loving person. He loved his family. He loved his mother. He stayed strong for them. He was a hero."
Spc. Fortunato’s hometown is in mourning. The family’s neighbors said: "Let us do this for you."
Elizabeth Crawford said she has been visited by strangers who feel compelled to pay tribute to her son, while the city’s veterans’ agent said he had fielded at least 50 telephone calls offering assistance as the family prepares for next week’s military funeral in Beverly.
"The outpouring has been tremendous," veterans’ agent Jerry Guilebbe said.
"Stephen would not want all this, but he deserves it," his mother said.
At New England Biolabs, where Crawford worked as a customer service representative for 27½ years until retiring last month, workers draped an American flag over the railing in the lobby of their Ipswich headquarters and placed photographs of Stephen around an arrangement of red, white and blue flowers.
Crawford said her former co-workers prepared a refrigerator full of meals for her family and are sending people to rake her yard, mow her lawn and clean her house.
"They said, ‘Let us do this for you,’" she said.
Crawford said a married couple with a son in Iraq came to her house with flowers. Another man stopped by with a bagful of small American flags and planted them around the perimeter of her front yard.
Jake Petronzio, a retired U.S. Marine whose son is now serving in Afghanistan, said the loss of any American soldier is a blow, "but naturally when it’s in your hometown it amplifies that hurt feeling."
"Naturally, you’re concerned 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said. "It comes home when the person who is the casualty could be your next-door neighbor."
Spc. Fortunato’s military awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Iraq Campaign Medal.
Spc. Fortunato’s funeral will take place this Friday St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in downtown Beverly, with burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Brimbal Avenue. The wake is scheduled for Thursday at the Campbell, Lee, Moody, Russell Funeral Home. Spc. Fortunato will be given a full military funeral.
Thank you, Spc. Fortunato. Godspeed. Your mission is done.
Sgt. Preston R. Medley, 23, of Baker, Florida
Sgt. Medley died Oct. 14 in Qazi Bandeh, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Sgt. Medley’s wife, Sarah, got the knock on her door last week.
A chaplain knocked on the door of his Texas home that morning to tell his wife, Sarah. The couple has a 1-year-old daughter and is expecting a son in December.
The 2003 Baker High School graduate is also survived by his grandparents, father and sister, who still live in the area, as well as many close friends. His mom died in 2005 and that was when he decided to join the Army.
And before he left for Afghanistan, he made it clear to his family that if anything happened to him, he wanted to be buried next to his mom. (His sister, Kristen) Meeks said he has a reserved spot in the Pyron Chapel Cemetery.
"He came down (this summer) and we had a little family thing," she said. "And he told us all there was a chance that he wouldn't be coming back, that he loved everybody. I think at the end he was getting a little nervous at having to go."
"He was just precious," said (his best friend) Ty's mom, Paula Owens, who said the two men were like brothers.
When asked what he would miss the most about his buddy, Ty answered, "My little brother and my best friend."
"He wanted to be No. 1 in anything he started at," his grandfather ("Peepaw" Jesse Medley) recalled. "He wanted to be the best."
Jesse laughed, remembering how the little boy had tried to hard to "hunt like Peepaw," but usually ended up falling asleep in a warm spot before the outing was over.
"He never did get better," Jesse said. "He'd fall asleep too quick. I'd find him in the dog box sometimes asleep with the dog."
Just hours before he died, Preston had spoken to (his wife) Sarah on the phone.
The two had met at Fort Bragg, where they were both stationed for a time. When Sarah became pregnant with their first child, she got out of the Army.
Their daughter, Raelynn, was born in Sept. 2007. The couple is expecting a son Dec. 14, who will now be named after his father, Meeks said.
He had hoped to come back to Texas for about three weeks in December, so he could be there for the birth of his son.
His grandmother, LaDonna Medley, said he was a wonderful father who doted on his little girl.
"He just loved his daughter," LaDonna said. "That was his life."
And he was "on top of the world" when he found out his wife was expecting a little boy.
"He said, 'I'll have an heir to the Medley name,'" she said.
When word reached Baker School, where Preston had been a well-liked student, staff members mourned his death. He played football there and was involved in the broadcasting program.
"My first memory of Preston is that he was really funny and he had a really great sense of humor," Rich Colburn, Baker's television class instructor said. "He was always ready to do a gag reel and was never afraid of what people would think of his performance in front of the camera."
"He was the energetic, joyful kind of person that helped make our program successful," Colburn said.
Jessie Medley received news Tuesday that still doesn't seem real. His 23-year-old grandson, Corporal Preston Medley was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb.
Jessie Medley told FOX10 News, "Thought he could make a difference, that may have been what got him killed, trying to make a difference."
Medley graduated from Baker high school in 2003. He was on the school TV station for eight years. The TV production teacher showed us videos of him from a young age.
Rich Colburn said, "His spirit, his comedic spirit, outgoing spirit, enthusiasm for life itself will always be missed, those are the types of people who will always be missed."
Sgt. Medley joined the military in October 2005 as an infantryman and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division since June 2007.
Sgt. Medley's military awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon and NATO Medal.
Sgt. Medley is survived by his wife, his daughter, his father, a sister, and two grandparents. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Thank you, Sgt. Medley. Godspeed. Your mission is done.
Remember them. Honor their sacrifice.
To date, 4186 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Iraq. The death toll thus far in October is already 20. Another 30,000 members of the military have been wounded, many grievously. The Department of Defense Press Releases, from which the information at the start of each entry in this diary was drawn, can be seen here. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least 200,000 and possibly many times that number.
To date, 617 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The death toll thus far for 2008 is 142. 380 members of the military from other countries have also lost their lives.
Other sites have stories, video, pictures and remembrances, including: Honor the Fallen. A group of runners is crossing the United States, dedicating a mile to each fallen soldier, sailor, Marine, Airman and National Guardsman. You can read about ~ and see photos and video of ~ Run for the Fallen here.
Assisting our military: Supporting our troops is the RIGHT THING to do.
You can send a care package.
You can write letters.
You can find other ways to give at anysoldier.com or Fisher House. If you have frequent flyer miles you would like to donate to hospitalized veterans or their families, please see Fisher House’s Hero Miles program.
You can help the left-behind animal companions of our troops. See how here.
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I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and rememeber. Click here to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, twilight falling, labwitchy, moneysmith, joyful, roses, SisTwo, SpamNunn, a girl in MI, JeNoCo, mediaprof, Pager, and me, noweasels.
These diaries are heartbreaking to write, but, we believe, an important service to those Americans who have died, and to our community’s respect for and remembrance of them. If you would like to volunteer, even once a month, please contact Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, or me, noweasels.
As you read this diary, please consider that the families and friends of those profiled here also may read it and that many members of our community have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or have loved ones currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the very proud daughter of a Navy pilot, and the granddaughter of a Marine pilot and a submariner, I hope that the comments tonight will demonstrate our respect for the sacrifices of our fallen military and our compassion for their families; please reserve your political comments for appropriate diaries.