News: Memorial At Sperwan Ghar
Story by Maj. Joel Anderson
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZANGABAD, Afghanistan – With a pair of OH-58D, Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters flying above the outer perimeter of Forward Operating Base Sperwan Ghar, members of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (L) paid their final respects to one of their own in a memorial service, Aug. 28.
Pfc. Brandon S. Mullins, 21, from Owensboro, Ky., was killed Aug. 25 when his Mine-resistant, ambush-protected, All-terrain Vehicle struck an improvised explosive device and rolled over.
With an attack jet roaring overhead, Lt. Col. Stephen Miller, 3rd Bn., 21st Inf. Reg., Gimlet battalion commander said, “It never seems to fail that those that we lose are the very best among us. Everyone will remember Brandon’s impatience with those he thought weren’t moving fast enough and his brute strength and force he would employ to get things done.
“We will move forward to respect Brandon’s memory. We must continue to honorably help the Afghan people who desire a better life. Brandon died trying to help accomplish this mission and we must complete it,” Miller added.
Company Commander, Capt. Sean Allred, thanked Mullins’ family for “the exemplary man you raised.”
He added, “We offer our deepest condolences … he was a man worthy of admiration and we know that we cannot fill the void created by his loss. It is with a heavy heart that we have gathered in this attempt to honor and remember his sacrifice.”
Mullins’ squad leader, Staff Sgt. Matthew Mills, took his turn next to reflect on the loss of his Soldier. “I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone like Mullins,” Mills said.
Spec. Deroderick Jackson, of Slidell, La., stepped up to the podium to pay tribute to Mullins. He told of the way Mullins was the first person from their platoon and squad that he met after stepping off the jetliner in Alaska.
“He was just a big help to me. Every time he saw I had a hard time, he made me smile and told me to get it together,” Jackson related. “On a mission with the Afghan National Army, I was real tired and they were going real fast and he [Mullins] said, ‘You got this, brother!’”
The final tribute by one of Brandon Mullins’ brothers-in-arms was from Pfc. Adam Baldridge from Imperial, Mo. He emphasized the fact that he was honored and proud to serve with him right from their first day at Creature Co. when they both were assigned to one of the company’s weapons squads.
“I remember he was really goofy. One time I remember we got in trouble and we were getting smoked until we almost had a tear rolling down our cheeks. He just turned and looked and me and said, ‘Just remember, they can’t smoke rocks,’” Baldrich shared.
The somber ceremony came to a close with the final roll call by 1st Sgt. Robert Fontenot.
Fontenot called out the names of three soldiers from within the company formation, including Pfc. Mullins. All of those called answered, except for Mullins. Fontenot called his name three times and all three times – silence. Fontenot executed an about face, and an honor guard of seven riflemen fired a 21-gun salute. Seamlessly, “Taps” played from an unseen bugler.
With “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes, the leadership of Lt. Col. Mullins and Command Sgt. Maj. Ricahrd Brown, marched up to the altar and rendered salutes, each retrieving battalion coins from their pockets and placing them at the base of Mullins’ weapon. Brown gently placed a hand on Mullins’ helmet before returning to the position of attention and again rendering their final salute.
A set of desert tan boots sat below an M4 carbine weapon, pointing down. An advanced combat helmet sat atop the weapon’s butt stock with a set of dog tags dangling from the pistol grip, the day’s fading sunlight glinting off the metal.
Pfc. Mullins may be gone but his memory is forever honored in the Gimlet history.