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    Panther’s Gold Star Family visits Fort Bragg

    Panther’s Gold Star Family visits Fort Bragg

    Photo By Spc. Emely Opio | The Family and son of a fallen 2nd Battalion 505th Paratrooper Infantry Regiment, 3rd...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Emely Opio 

    49th Public Affairs Detachment   

    Panther’s Gold Star Family visits Fort Bragg

    The Family and son of fallen 2nd Battalion 505th Paratrooper Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd. Lt Luke S. James, visited and honored him with his unit on July 23, 2021 at Fort Bragg, NC.

    James was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004. His son, Bradley James, was just 6 months old and never got to know his father.
    Bradley and his family are one of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Gold Star families. A Gold Star Family is the immediate family members who has lost a member of their family due to the hostility of war.
    For Bradley's 18th birthday, he wanted to visit Fort Bragg to see where his father lived and trained as a Panther Paratrooper.
    The tour started with their visit to the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum.
    Bradley and his family had a warm welcome from members of Jame’s original unit. This included: Commander of 2505th, Colonel Bruce Parker (R), Command Sgt. Maj. (R) Jim Miller, Colonel Tony Petros, Command Chaplain at Fort Campbell, KY, Captain Robert Jepsen (R) and the 17th amputee of the war, Staff Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf, a platoon leader of 2-505th.
    “I hope you receive at this time the support and extension of love to you all for the great moment this morning,” said Petros. “It’s a significant reminder to us that this will never be forgotten and it's frequently thought of what they provided on that day with their dedication.”
    Members of the unit each gave a speech regarding the death of James and his contribution to the unit, including memories of his father.
    “Bradley, your dad died doing what he loved, leading his Soldiers,” said Jepsen. “He was out there that night ensuring that we keep that fighting edge, getting familiar with equipment that we normally have in inventory, so that we can continue our mission and bring stability into the region while fighting an insurgent force. That was no easy task to take on but your dad was determined that our platoon would lead the way.”
    Many soldiers in the 2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment will never forget Jan. 27, 2004. The day three Soldiers from the unit were wounded, and three others lost their lives.
    “Bradley, I can tell you that being in many units, infantry or otherwise, they’ve all lost guys,” said Jepsen. “And none of them have held onto their memory of their fallen heroes like this unit has.”
    They laid a beautiful red white and blue floral reef to remember three fallen soldiers: Sgt. Cory Merck, Staff Sgt. Lester “Buddy” O’Kinney, and James. Before continuing their tour, Parker left them with these words.
    “Today could be a day of sadness and grief, but we are not going to let that happen. Today is not about us, it’s about Bradley.”
    Next , they went to the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters to have an office call with Maj. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, Commanding General of 82nd Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Divison’s Command Sergeant Major David R. Pitt, who previously worked with James and knew Bradley as an infant.
    “I remember when your dad would come to work and you would be in the car seat on your dad’s desk in the Platoon Office,” said Pitt. “You will always be a part of 82nd and Panther Brigade.”
    The family then visited James’ unit's basketball court, a court named in his honor.
    Upon arrival there was a table with a bottle of champagne, a flag and trinkets gathered along from James' deployment.
    But one of them stands out the most, the bottle of champagne. This was no ordinary bottle, it was the very one James had in his rucksack.
    "Well, this was something the officers did where they had carried a bottle of champagne," said Miller. "And this was not known by anybody but amongst the officers and their own manner of promoting their own esprit de corps and cohesion amongst the officer corps in the battalion."
    Miller was given the bottle at his retirement. He was given one last mission before heading toward his retirement.
    Bradley was presented the champagne along with a flag during the ceremony.
    "It's humbling and nice to know, because in the back of your mind, you don't want to believe that people have forgotten about something," Bradley James said. "And to find out that there are all these people who are there to support you is just a fantastic thing to know."
    Throughout the entirety of that day, Bradley and his family showed high hopes and smiles recognizing the value of what it means to be a Panther in 2-505th, forever and always.



    Date Taken: 07.23.2021
    Date Posted: 07.30.2021 11:01
    Story ID: 402112
    Location: NC, US

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