This evening we will be celebrating the life of a young man who grew up in one of the lush valleys of California and who died in a battle-wrecked area of the Arghandab Valley in Afghanistan. He was a new father, and beloved hometown hero. Specialist Brett W. Land will be missed by many and mourned by a nation who has lost much to war.
Army Specialist Brett Land's name will join with the others of our fallen military personnel remembered this coming Veteran's Day.
Specialist Brett W. Land
Brett Land grew up in Porterville, a city in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He excelled at wrestling while at Bakersfield High School. He won several awards and was a member of the school's 2004 state championship team. According to the Bakersfield.com News site:
Brett W. Land wasn’t one to shy away from anything. Steve Varner, an assistant coach at Bakersfield High School when Land wrestled there, described Land as a "hard-nosed," adventurous kid.
"He’s the guy, if you want to go to war, that’s the kind of guy you’d want right there with you," Varner said.
...Varner said that Brett Land, a three-time Central Section Grand Masters champion who twice placed at state championships, was a joy to coach. He gave the sport everything he had, which is the same effort he put forth toward everything he did, Varner said.
"He just competed in life and he loved life," he said.
He attended West Hills College in Lemoore in 2007, where he was named the wrestling team captain, most valuable player, and All-American athlete.
Land joined the US Army in November of 2008. During basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia, Brett met his wife, Sarah. She now lives in Hesperia, California with their newborn daughter.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which is based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky and was in his first tour of duty, in Afghanistan. Land was slated to return home in mid-November on leave, to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family and meet his baby girl.
On October 30th, Specialist Land was in the Zhari district of Afghanistan when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device (IED). He was 24 years old at the time, and died from his wounds. Four other soldiers, who were also assigned to Company C. from the 2nd Battalion, were injured during the attack.
In an article in Land's hometown paper, the Porterville Recorder, it tells of the affect the news of this latest death has had on the community:
The news has come as a shock to many in Porterville, especially the student body of Burton Middle School where they had made Land their "adopted soldier," said principal and longtime friend of the Land family, Michelle Pengilly.
"It’s tragic today. It feels like we lost one of our own children," said Pengilly who informed students of Land’s death at the start of school on Monday. "It was very quiet. A lot of sad and long faces," she said.
Students had been writing Land and had just last week sent off their first care package — a package he will never see.
His awards and decorations include: National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and Airborne Tab.
Land is survived by his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Rileigh of Hesperia, California; father, Kenneth and mother, Gretchen, two brothers and a sister.
The KMPH News site quotes Brett's wife and his wrestling coach:
On her Facebook page, Sarah Land wrote, "Yesterday I was in shock... This morning I woke up and asked god why me, I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I love you so much Brett land you will always be my one true love. Even though our Rileigh never got a chance to meet you she'll never forget you."
Another post shows her daughter sleeping next to a picture of Brett. The caption: "even though he's not here, daddy likes to nap with his baby girl."
..."He's a young man, I really feel joining the army he was turning the corner, a wrestling terminology, he was turning a corner on his way to a double edge take down. He was about ready to do that I life. Married, got a kid, got a career going, I think he was about ready to turn the corner," said Olson.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be made when the military releases his body to the family. That could take up to 10 days. Services will probably in Porterville, California where they are already planning a special tribute for Specialist Land at this year’s Veteran's Day parade.
Helping our troops:
If you wish to assist our military and their families, consider Operation Helmet, or Fisher House. Donating to Netroots for the Troops provides care packages that make a real difference in a military person's life. To assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here. Also, you could visit:
When our veterans come back home, they need jobs. Look at the programs of Hire Heroes USA and Welcome Back Veterans to see if you can help out. The KINship Project has also been of help to our veterans and other Kossacks In Need.
Stop-loss pay is available for veterans. The deadline for this program is December 3rd. The compensation is also available to survivors.
About the IGTNT series:
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members mentioned here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.