REDDING, CA, USA U.S. Army CPL, COMPANY A, 3D BATTALION, 509TH INFANTRY, 4 BCT, FORT RICHARDSON, AK BAGHDAD, IRAQ 12/07/2006
Don’t pray that I come home soon,” Micah S. Gifford wrote to friends on his MySpace.com page shortly after his Army unit was deployed in Iraq. “Pray that the people that are causing us to stay out there can see the light and change their ways without harm coming to them first.”
Then, in character, the 27-year-old preacher’s son with a prankster’s heart outlined the retribution he could deliver: “All I gotta do is flex and their brains will explode out of sheer amazement, so again … don’t worry about me.”
But Gifford’s moxie, Christian faith and cheeky humor could not protect him from a roadside bomb that exploded near his unit while on patrol Dec. 7 in Baghdad. Gifford, an Army corporal who grew up in Torrance and most recently lived in Northern California, and a fellow soldier were killed.
Gifford was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Ft. Richardson, Alaska.
Gifford had not originally planned to go into the military. Born in San Diego, he spent his teenage years in Torrance when his father, Dale, was the minister of Hermosa Beach Church of Christ. Gifford then attended Harding University, a Christian college in Searcy, Ark.
After graduating with a degree in business management, he worked odd jobs in Redding, near where his parents had moved, while planning to become a firefighter.
But after the 2004 terrorist beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg, which was seen in a videotape distributed on the Internet, Gifford spontaneously decided to enlist, said his mother, Marsha.
“He didn’t feel right sitting at home when that was going on,” she said.
Until then, Gifford’s older brother Ben had been the soldier in the family. Micah was the youngest of three boys, a jester who prospered on the football field though his build was far smaller than most linebackers.
At college, Gifford rode on top of elevators, glued one friend’s possessions — toothbrush, loose change, remote control, deodorant — to a dorm countertop and covered a room with pieces of shredded paper.
“If Micah couldn’t make you smile, then nobody else had a chance,” a schoolmate, Darin Brazile, wrote on www.micahgifford.com, one of the tribute websites set up in Gifford’s honor. “Whether it was on the practice field, the dorm, cafeteria or anywhere else you happened across him, he was having fun and usually up to something.”
Gifford also was known for his great warmth. He enveloped friends and acquaintances in spontaneous bear hugs; put up the Christmas tree lights each year at the house of a friend whose family was afraid of heights; and tried to offer encouragement to whomever was around.
“He was caring on steroids,” said his father, now the minister at Auburn Skyline Church of Christ, located in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento. “He had a way of making every girl seem like the most beautiful girl in the world, every guy feel like he was the most important person. I can’t tell you how many people came up [at the funeral] and said, ‘Micah was my best friend.’ “