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Brian J Bradbury


U.S. Army



The mother of a U.S. soldier who died Wednesday in Afghanistan hung his picture on the front door of her South Side home Friday.Smiling back was the image of a 22-year-old who, along with his wife and two children, left St. Joseph in November for a new life with the U.S. Army at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Private First Class Brian Bradbury’s dream of a fresh start was cut short Wednesday after he faced enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades during combat operations in Naray, Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Staff Sergeant Heathe N. Craig, 28, of Maryland, died while trying to evacuate Mr. Bradbury, as the hoist on his UH-60 helicopter malfunctioned.

Rhonda Bradbury said Army officials informed her Wednesday night that her son’s arm had been severed during combat. While being lifted, the cable broke and he fell 30 feet.

“I can’t tell you he was a kid that wanted to join the Army,” she said. “I don’t want people to think he was a die-hard-military-kill-em-up guy.”

But she acknowledged the Army transformed her shy son from a boy–who had a rocky start as a husband in St. Joseph–into a good father and a confident man.

Mr. Bradbury and his wife, Jessica Petty, married in 2004 and rented an apartment on South 12th Street. There they raised their daughter, Jasmine Renee, now 3 and Jailynn, now 1, was on the way.

“They were good kids. They had a lot of problems, but he had a new family to take care of, and it was stressful for him,” said Donna Sanchez, who lived in an apartment upstairs.

He worked at SST, but his mother remembers him complaining that the job bored him. So the couple put their hopes in his new career in the Army. He graduated from basic combat military training at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla. in the fall of 2005. He and his wife became regular members of Word of Life Church before moving to New York in November.

“It gave him a purpose,” said Jason Strickland, a family friend. “He was finally devoted to something.” His friend Chelsea Richman, added, “He even walked different.”

By Jan. 12, he left for his overseas mission, while his wife and children stayed in New York.

“They were so excited. They were going to New York–the Big Apple,” Mrs. Bradbury said. “I looked at this as a new beginning for them….I was so proud of him.”

She said his wife last heard from him on Father’s Day, when he expressed plans to re-enlist when his current commitment was completed under the stipulation he would be stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., so he could be close to family in St. Joseph.


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