Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Robert Basham laid to rest

Kenosha - A fan letter was read out loud Thursday morning.

The words were tender and the voice broke as the letter writer told a crowd of several hundred just what his big brother meant to him and how much his loss will be felt. Brian Basham used the word "hero" to describe his brother Robert, a 22-year-old Wisconsin National Guardsman who was on his second tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The last time Robert Basham called from Iraq, he wished Brian a happy 21st birthday and promised to celebrate with him when he returned home to Kenosha.

Robert Basham's friends, family and fellow soldiers choked back tears as his younger brother read the letter he wrote when he heard of his brother's death from a non-combat incident in Doha, Qatar. The letter was addressed to "My brother, my hero."

Brian Basham talked about his brother wanting to go into the Secret Service, while Brian would become an FBI agent and "side by side we were going to make a difference in the world."

He remembered a brother who was always the life of the party, who didn't mind acting goofy even if it meant dancing the "worm" in his Kenosha Military Academy uniform at prom. He remembered a brother who quickly worked his way up to staff sergeant in the Wisconsin National Guard, becoming one of the youngest staff sergeants in the Guard.

As mourners dabbed tears, Brian Basham finished his letter.

"Know that I will live my life to the fullest in your honor. Love, your biggest fan - Brian."

A member of Headquarters Battery of the Wisconsin National Guard 1st Battalion, 126th Field Artillery, Basham spent a year in Kuwait in 2005 and 2006, performing guard duty at a U.S. military base with the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry. Soldiers from several units, including the 126th, were deployed to fill out the 2nd Battalion, 128th when it was called to duty.

When the unit was preparing to return home last fall, Basham asked his commander if he could stay. He was then assigned to a Kansas National Guard unit stationed in Iraq.

Serving his country in the military was something Robert Basham had wanted to do since he was young. He enrolled in Junior ROTC at the Kenosha Military Academy, where he worked his way up to cadet leadership positions before graduating in 2002 as cadet battalion commander. It was the same in the National Guard, where he was put in charge of a team and was quickly promoted to squad leader.

Basham was a forward observer in the artillery unit, helping direct fire when the 126th fired its big guns.

On bulletin boards placed on easels at the funeral home were photos of Basham: Rob hugging his mom, Rob hanging out with friends, Rob wearing his prom king sash and crown, Rob in his military uniform. A line of small wallet-sized school photos showed Basham, who loved to golf and play poker, growing older, getting taller, filling out.

At Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, mourners huddled and hugged each other under umbrellas and gray skies. In a steady drizzle and stiff breeze, they watched an honor guard fold the flag that draped his casket and listened to a 21-gun salute followed by a bugler blowing taps.

Among the many veterans at the cemetery who fought in distant lands, Robert Basham was buried next to Evan Bixler, a Racine soldier killed last Christmas Eve in Iraq.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Related Link:
Robert J. Basham dies of 'injuries from a non-combat incident'