Remembering the fallen in the Iraqi war zone

By Matt Lawson

If you watched the news a couple of weeks ago, then you know that Jan. 20 was a particularly bloody day for U.S. forces in Iraq. Unfortunately, the wounds inflicted reached my battalion. The helicopter that crashed on that Saturday belonged to us, and its loss has been particularly hard on our unit.

The aircraft carried 12 US military personnel, of which three soldiers, all crew members, were from our Charlie Company based in Little Rock, Ark.

SSG Gary Brown was one of the crew chiefs responsible for maintenance. I’d seen him around a couple of times, but didn’t really know him that well. I have been told by members of his company that he had a long and honorable Army career and he was as dedicated to his family as he was to his country.

On the other hand, I often worked with 1SG William Warren, the other crew chief on the aircraft. As the First Sergeant of Charlie Company, 1SG Warren was responsible for the care of all the enlisted soldiers in his unit. First sergeant often stopped by my shop, trying to get computers fixed and requesting batteries for his equipment. Whenever I needed something from him, he’d always respond with, “Hey sir, I’m easy, I’m just not cheap.” He leaves behind his loving wife, children and several grandchildren.

The man I knew best of the three was Capt. Michael Taylor. Mike was Charlie Company’s commander. He was a man who carried a large amount of responsibility with ease. CPT Taylor was always on top of the situation. His company is known for being dependable and efficient, and those traits were direct reflections of Mike’s leadership.

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    Mike was a good friend who was always good for a laugh. In all of our battalion meetings Mike sat opposite me. We would always roll our eyes at each other as the meetings would go into their third hour.

    CPT Bryan Pike, CPT Mike Armstrong, and I were responsible for inventorying and shipping Mike’s possessions back to his family in the U.S. We did this in the middle of the night, silently folding clothes, disconnecting stereo equipment, and packing boxes.

    It was particularly painful to pack away the pictures of his family and the homemade cards his young children had sent to their father.

    On the wall hung his calendar, where Mike had marked of each day that had been completed. The empty space on Jan. 20 will always serve as a stinging reminder of his loss on that day. I can’t really tell you much about the circumstances of his loss, other than to tell you if anyone could have saved that Blackhawk, it was Mike Taylor.

    Maybe someday I’ll be able to tell the true story of what happened, but for now it will suffice to say that all three crewmen are being recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for their actions on Jan. 20, 2007. To give you some idea of what that means, only 63 DFCs have been given out since this conflict began. The DFC is the nation’s fourth highest award for valor in combat.

    Our unit had a memorial service on the 22nd, and it was a difficult experience for everyone involved. Tears filled everyone’s eyes and I’m sure there was a lump in everyone’s throats as tributes were given to all of these men. I think it gave some closure to most of us, but the wounds are still fresh.

    So, when you’re walking to class, sitting down for a meal or just relaxing today, be thankful for men like Mike Taylor. Contrary to popular belief, Mike Taylor was not stuck in Iraq because he was dumb or couldn’t get a better job.

    Mike was here because he loved his darling son and daughter, and he loved his country. I’m a better person for having known Mike Taylor, and we’re all a little worse off for having lost him. And Mike, wait for me at Fiddler’s Green.

    227 down. 137 to go.