Saturday, May 19, 2007

Anthony Bradshaw laid to rest

Anthony Bradshaw and his twin brother had a grand plan when they got their physicals in 2004 at Fort Sam Houston.

They were tired of living on the margins, moving all the time and being evicted. They had decided to join the Army and later get an education.

"We don't want to bum it up all our lives," Sgt. Samuel "Sammy" Bradshaw said. "There has to be something better. That's what we were striving for the whole time. Just joining the military, we knew things had to get better."

They did for a while — but then it all went wrong. The young man everyone called Tony, a corporal, was one of seven people killed May 6 in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad when a powerful roadside bomb struck their Stryker armored personnel carrier. Five of those who died were fellow soldiers. A seventh was a Russian freelance photographer.

The final farewell came Wednesday at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, 2 miles from the Military Entrance Processing Station where the brothers became soldiers.

Their mother, Ingrid Lee, 54, of New Braunfels, sobbed uncontrollably before the service began as "Going Home" was played on bagpipes. When a horse-drawn caisson rolled up, she leaned into her daughter, Anna Bradshaw, 19, of San Antonio.

In the distance, seven white-gloved riflemen stood at attention in the hot sun. Her son's flag-draped coffin was lifted from the carriage by the military honor guard, the hard slap of boots on the pavement the only sound as they entered Shelter No. 4.

"Ready, halt!"

"Ready, face!"

The men set the casket on a green bier. Lee, sitting front and center with her kids, sobbed on.

"Oh, Tony," she cried softly.

Based in Iraq when his brother was killed, Sammy Bradshaw recalled a tough upbringing. Mom's firstborn son, Chris, went to his grandparents. Samuel, Tony, Anna and another brother, Alex, lived in El Paso housing projects.

But the family was close-knit, and they shared a lot of love.

Mom worked as a waitress. The kids sometimes didn't have much to eat. They split time between El Paso and San Antonio, which is why Sammy thinks of both cities and everything in between as home — even though he and his wife, Andrea, now live in Fayetteville, N.C.

Mom and the kids would live in one place and then move somewhere else. Sammy was never sure why. The first eviction he could recall occurred before kindergarten.

"We've had a pretty interesting and crazy life," he said.

Before coming to San Antonio, Sammy and Tony attended at least a dozen El Paso high schools. They got an apartment in the Alamo City, worked and studied, the Army high on their minds. Their idea was to enter the self-paced program at the city's Competency Based High School, graduate and then enlist.

They'd thought about joining since childhood, when one grandfather, a retired chief warrant officer, took them to a Fort Bliss museum and showed them the Army's tanks and howitzers.

The twins left their apartment and moved in with their mom. Sammy said he graduated from Northside Excel Academy in April 2004 while Tony got a GED. They took their physicals and entered boot camp a week apart at Fort Benning, Ga. Sammy put the blue cord of an infantryman on his brother's shoulder at a December graduation, then they ate lunch at the PX.

"After we ate, we talked for a while," Sammy recalled. "He said, 'I'm going to go downtown and go to the mall. I'm going to have fun.' I said, 'Cool. See you later, dude,' and that was it. That was the last time I saw him."

Sammy went to Bayji, between Baghdad and Mosul. Tony was in Diyala, one of the most violent places in Iraq this year. He didn't say much about the war in occasional calls and e-mails.

But that was Tony, described by his brothers and sister as quiet and "ridiculously smart."

Tony's best friend, Sgt. Todd Selge, 22, of Burnsville, Minn., called him "one of the best soldiers I ever knew." He didn't think Tony was worried, but Bradshaw brother Alex said he seemed preoccupied while home on midterm leave earlier this year.

"Yeah, he was nervous," said Spc. Alex Pitts, 25, of Fort Polk, La., and a veteran of Afghanistan. "Me and my brothers would probably never say it. We probably wouldn't tell each other, but from talking to him I could tell he was scared."

Home, ironically, was close. Tony and Alex intended to live together in Austin next January after leaving the Army. They'd study on the GI Bill and build a life — one different from the past.

Instead, Tony's mom buried her face in the neatly folded flag given to her by a two-star general.

Three rifle volleys rang out.

Taps was sounded.

Said Alex: "We wanted to break the cycle, do something else for a couple of years, come back, regroup and use our experience to better ourselves."

From the San Antonio Express News

Related Link:
Anthony M. Bradshaw dies of injuries from I.E.D.