Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brett Walton remembered

TIGARD -- One week after Army Pfc. Brett Andre Walton of Portland died in Iraq, his family gathered Monday to remember the man they said went to that country to help children, families and communities.

Before a roadside bomb hit the Humvee the 37-year-old Walton was driving in Baghdad on April 9 during a morning patrol, he'd been spending time getting to know homeless children, coordinating medical aid for injured civilians, and working to restore schools and marketplaces there, said his wife, Lindsay Walton.

Sitting between several family members at the Tigard Armory on Southwest Oak Street, Walton told reporters that her husband -- who'd been overseas for less than a month when he died -- was shocked at how desperate civilians there were.

"He said 'There were children over there that had nothing . . .'; he was real emotional about one 11-year-old girl" who had been hit in crossfire, his wife said. "He went as a humanitarian. . . . He saw a lot of innocent families, and all he wanted was for them to be able to go to the market" without fearing for their lives, she said.

She and their 5-year-old daughter, Sydney, were doing the best they could with the sad news, Walton said. She takes tremendous comfort, she said, in the belief that her family will reunite in heaven.

Since learning of her husband's death, she's taken comfort in the support of her family, friends, Tigard's Solid Rock Church members and Army staff.

The Army, she said, is helping the family with counseling, financial issues -- "anything we need, they make sure we have it."

Walton, who graduated from Grant High School, drove trucks for Portland's Airgas Inc. before entering the Army on Sept. 13, Oregon National Guard Kay Fristad said.

He was deployed to Iraq on March 10, and assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colo.

On Monday, Walton's wife; his sister, Cheryl Walton; and others talked about the serious as well as the silly aspects of who he was.

On mornings when he was in charge of Sydney, he poured M&Ms into his daughter's Cheerios, family members remembered, laughing. He loved video games, but was also drawn to classic and modern literature. When someone gave him a copy of "Memoirs of a Geisha," he worried that fellow soldiers might think he was reading a women's book. Nevertheless, he was brave, and soon after he left he called his wife to let her know he was three-fourths through the book, and that it was excellent.

Before leaving, he approached his sister, Cheryl Walton, to tell her that he wanted his family to make sure that his wife and daughter be cared for.

"He wanted me to be the strong one," said his sister, who is only 14 months older than her brother. "He wanted to make sure that everybody was OK, and that our parents would be OK."

The family is planning a memorial service for 11 a.m. Monday, April 23, at the Solid Rock Church in Tigard, followed by interment at Willamette National Cemetery. The service is open to the public; burial is private.

From the Oregonian

Related Link:
Brett A. Walton dies of injuries from I.E.D.