LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Pfc. Brandon T. Pickering’s leaders and comrades gathered to honor their fallen 21-year-old infantry brother’s service and sacrifice on Combat Outpost Sayed Abad, Afghanistan, April 20.
Pickering, of Fort Thomas, Ky., was an infantryman assigned to 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s Task Force Warrior. Posthumously promoted to the rank of private first class, he died April 10 in the presence of his parents at Landstuhl, Germany, as the result of a wound suffered during an enemy engagement in the Tangi Valley of Wardak province, April 8.
“We honor Pfc. Pickering’s honorable service to our nation in wartime, we respect his bravery in multiple enemy contacts and we remember him as a wonderful human being,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Rickard, TF Warrior commander, of Columbus, Ga. “Brandon was our brother-in-arms and his parents’ only son. We grieve his loss painfully, knowing his mother, father and stepfather are devastated by the loss of such an incredible, courageous young man.
“He was a good soldier, and he brought joy into our world with his sense of humor and desire to make others laugh,” said Rickard.
U.S. Army Capt. Jason Shuff, Company C commander from Raymond, Miss., also reflected upon Pickering as a good soldier and a friend who soldiers could always count on for a laugh. He said Pickering brightened morale and was always there for those who needed him.
“Brandon tried to do what was best at every given task. He never accepted less than accomplishing his task or accomplishing his mission. He was always ready and always there,” said Shuff. “We honor our brother on this day. We honor his service and sacrifice for the price of not just the freedom of our nation but for the price of securing his fellow soldiers to his left and to his right.”
Shuff said Pickering was never alone. Soldiers attended to him during his medical evacuation, family gathered around him in the hospital and, even now, fellow fallen U.S. Army TF Warrior soldiers Pfc. Devon Harris, Spc. Omar Soltero, Staff Sgt. Chauncy Mays and Spc. Christopher Stark join him “on high,” he said.
“Remember Brandon Pickering; remember his service; remember his sacrifice,” said Shuff. “May we honor him in our continued efforts to serve our nation, may God bless him and his family and may he strengthen this family as we persevere.”
U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Bost from Green Bay, Wis., was Pickering’s teammate on a two-man gun team for Company C. Bost compared life to a journey, saying everyone moves from one stage to the next.
“Whether it is high school, college or the Army, we will all reflect on the different stages of our lives if we are lucky enough to make it to old age,” said Bost. “‘Pick’ made my life in the Army much better. Pickering’s journey was short – much too short – but he did plenty in that time to be proud of.
“One of his best qualities was the way he could make people laugh,” continued Bost. “Even in the worst situations, ‘Pick’ could spin anything around and put a smile on our faces.”
Bost said Pickering loved the outdoors and especially enjoyed fishing, any kind of fishing, which took up most of his free time in the United States. It was because of Pickering’s love for the outdoors and Louisiana’s numerous outdoor-living opportunities that he sported a tattoo of the state of Louisiana, even though it is not his home state.
Pickering had a lot of heart, said Bost, but mostly, he never wanted to let anyone down.
“When you are part of a two-man team, you need to have confidence and trust in one another, especially on a gun team. You don’t have ammunition bearers out here to carry the ammo for us, so it is just up to you two to carry the weight,” said Bost. “He would always let me hear about how his bag was heavy, but when it came down to the missions, he would throw the bag on his back and continue on regardless.
“I had all the confidence in the world in him,” continued Bost. “He knew his job and mine.”
Bost described his and Pickering’s last week at an Afghan National Army compound in the Tangi Valley. He said they were on a mission, and whenever they halted for a short time they would “take a knee” and scan for a potential gun position.
“In this particular case, we had to cover a large area for our guys who were moving; so, in order to effectively cover them, we had to expose ourselves slightly,” said Bost. “I turned to him and said, ‘How about that spot? It is kind of exposed, but we need to be there.’ He responded with, ‘I will go wherever you go.’
“That was ‘Pick.’ He would follow any one of us anywhere,” said Bost. “He considered all of us his brothers. ‘Pick,’ we all love and miss you. We will never forget you or the positive influence you had on our lives.”
“We humbly acknowledge our mortality as humans, but we live boldly with the confidence that our legacy is immortal,” said Rickard during the service for Pickering. “We live in dangerous times and a dangerous place. We serve in harm’s way to allow Afghans to reject international terrorism and its supporters.
“We patrol at the periphery of public view, thousands of miles from our loved ones in an unforgiving arena where we have seen the faces of evil and the horrors of war,” Rickard continued. “We accept our choice to live a dangerous life so that others may enjoy the freedoms that we so cherish.
“Let us never forget our brother in arms, Pfc. Brandon Thomas Pickering, and his last, full measure of devotion,” continued Rickard. “We are better men today because of his example, and we move forward with his memory guiding us to always take the high ground. May God bless his family, our task force and the United States of America.”
Pickering’s awards and decorations include the following: Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghan Campaign Medal, with one campaign star; Global War on Terror Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon; Combat Infantryman Badge.