EDITORIAL: Remember the fallen — today, and always

Everybody has an enemy, but I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like Brian.

— John Cosato, Lucerne Valley, Calif.


Sgt. Brian L. Walker did have enemies, but they weren’t at Juan Cosato’s barbershop in his hometown of Lucerne Valley.

Walker’s enemies were the ones who planted the improvised explosive device along a road in Bowri Tana, Afghanistan, that exploded on Mother’s Day while the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion was on patrol under his command.

The battalion is attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

The IED killed Walker and the vehicle’s driver, Pfc. Richard L. McNulty III, of Rolla, Mo., and wounded three other JBER soldiers.

Walker was 25. McNulty was 22.

It was the second deployment of Afghanistan for Walker, who joined the Army in 2007. It was the first for McNulty, who shipped out of JBER in December and was scheduled to return home in three weeks.

McNulty’s wife since February 2010, Hannah, is due to give birth to their first child in June. He leaves behind his parents, a brother, four sisters and a heartbroken town of fewer than 20,000 that lost another native son, Sgt. Tyler Smith, on April 3 in Afghanistan.

According to a friend quoted in Walker’s hometown California paper, the Army sergeant had also recently gotten married.

Excruciating as it must be on any day to learn of the death of a loved one fighting 10,000 miles away, the pain of such news on a day we honor our moms is unimaginable.

Mother’s Day will never be the same for the parents of Walker and McNulty. Nor will it be for McNulty’s wife Hannah, or his daughter Ella who will grow up without ever celebrating a Father’s Day with her dad.

The tragic deaths drive home a powerful reminder:

The enemies of Walker and McNulty — and of us back home who enjoy the freedom they are fighting for — don’t care what day of the week it is.

And unfortunately, sometimes back home we don’t care about what day of the week it is either. We just know we have a three-day weekend.

The stories of Walker and McNulty break our hearts because of the day their deaths occurred, and for that we are guilty of going about our daily lives without very often thinking about the men and women who serve, the risks they face and the sacrifices they and their families endure.

Alaskans have plenty to celebrate over this long weekend with the return of long days and time with family and friends. We also should celebrate the safe return home of some 4,000 troops to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.

But we also need to remember Brian Walker and Richard McNulty, and all of their band of brothers who don’t get the day off — or don’t make it back at all.

Join the Wounded Warriors project to help the mates of Walker and McNulty who survived the attack. Support a veterans’ scholarship program for children like Ella McNulty who never get to meet their fathers.

But whatever you do to celebrate, make sure to put the “Memorial” in Memorial Day — and give thanks for all those who serve year round.

05/25/2012 - 8:29am