Community Comes Together To Remember A Fallen Hometown Hero One Year After His Death
A void will be felt at the alter during an important family event next month when Josh Wood recites his vows. His cousin Brett, the late Spencer soldier who lost his life one year ago on September 9, was supposed to be his best man.
“We had it all worked out, we had everything worked out; we had our whole lives planned out, it was pretty awesome,” Josh said during Sunday’s one-year anniversary of Private First Class Brett Everett Wood’s death while serving with the United States Army in Afghanistan. “Through all of this, I’ve found a strength from it. I’ve never lost anybody before, and then to lose Brett, he was my number one guy; there are still hard days and there are some really good days. The other day I was thinking about a funny story in the car, and I was just laughing in the car by myself.”
“I told him straight up, it’s about 99 percent stupid stuff you have to put up with and one percent cool stuff. But the one percent of cool stuff is so cool that it makes up for the other 99 percent,” Josh said. “It appealed to Brett so much and to see him transform from being a little kid, a little prankster into a man. Everything I talked about, about the military, he connected to 100 percent. He loved it. When he was in Afghanistan, I talked to him almost every day and he hated being bored. A lot of people won’t tell you that war is boring for the most part. He loved going out on missions, it was his favorite thing to do. I watched him turn into a warrior; I think that he died a warrior’s death and for a true warrior, I don’t think you could ask for much more.”
Josh said Brett had told he and friend Derek Mundy while waiting for a delayed flight in the airport that he felt they wouldn’t see each other again, that he wouldn’t last two weeks. Wood was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) 14 days to the day he departed.
PFC. Wood served as an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright.
Sunday afternoon provided an opportunity for more than 100 family, friends and members of the local community to gather and pay their respects on the one year anniversary of his death. The 19-year-old was part of a patrol convoy in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan when the IED exploded.
U.S. Army Captain Scott Bailey of Poland served as one of several speakers during Sunday’s memorial at the Owen County Fairgrounds.
Captain Bailey noted that while he never had the privilege of serving with PFC. Wood, to the First Battalion, Fifth Infantry Regiment, the “Bobcats,” he was their brother.
“He was a part of the Bobcat family, a brother in arms and a part of the third oldest infantry regiment in the U.S. Army. Brothers in arms, they form a special bond. It is a bond formed through shared struggles, hardships and trials. It is a bond that cannot be broken, in life and even in death,” he said. “There is no greater tragedy than to lose a loved one, a fellow soldier, who was so young. He sacrificed everything for his country, for his family and for our freedom. He is a hero and will not be forgotten.”
“I’ve served in the Army for 11 years now and I’ve known families who have lost loved ones in the war, but when you live in the hometown of a fallen soldier, you can see and feel pain and sorrow throughout the whole community,” he noted. “Private Wood has touched the lives of this entire community. Private Wood will always be a hero and will never be forgotten. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for his nation, for his town and for his loved ones. It is because of heros like Private Wood that America is free.”
She also remembered her four children, Brett, Nikk, Cory and Amber utilizing Kool-Aid and water to make a slip ‘n slide on the kitchen floor.
“It is moments like these that are forever etched in my heart and keep me going. It is this bond between these four children who grew up together, became adults, but are forever brothers and sister,” Malissa said. “Amber put it nicely: the only steps in our home are the ones leading to the front door. I think of not only the son that I lost, but the brother to Amber, Nikk, Cory and Brandon; the uncle of Charli girl.”
She said that after speaking to Nikk and his wife, Shelby (Melton) on the phone recently, she wanted to share a story of their daughter, Charli.
“After losing Brett, there was a very kind lady who had a canvas photo of Brett made and I sent one to Nikk and Shelby in Alaska. This picture sits on Charli’s dresser with a candle,” Malissa said. “Shelby told me that there are days when Charli carries this picture everywhere. She kisses uncle Brett and gives him hugs through this picture. Charli was so little when she met uncle Brett for the first time, but there are many photos that captured that moment. I wanted to tell this story because this leads me to the memorial statue of Brett. Today is not only a day to remember Brett, but to remember the ultimate sacrifice he made – his life. A 19-year-old young man, who left a comfortable life of family and friends, boarded a plane knowing deep in his heart he would probably never make it back home. Today is a day to honor Brett and keep his memory alive and going. This memorial has been setup to hopefully, someday, have a life-like replica of Brett placed on the courthouse lawn. This memorial would not only be placed there in honor of Brett and his sacrifice, but for someday when Charli is older, she can some and see the statue of uncle Brett and Brandon can see the statue of his older brother. A place where Amber, Nikk and Cory can come and see the statue of their brother and continue to honor him. The hope of achieving the goal of the memorial statue is also for the fellow veteran soldiers, firemen, EMTs and police personnel who are so well deserving of the honor and respect. For the families who deserve to have their loved ones honored.”
“I didn’t have many friends yet. I went to study hall and Brett was one of the very first friends I made in Spencer. That friendship continued all the way through,” Billy said. “For a short time, he lived with us, so I know my whole family feels like he was a member of it too, he feels almost like a brother. What made him such a good friend was that he always wanted to make people laugh and have a good time. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. What I miss the most is that I can’t call him, I can’t visit; he won’t be there when I get older and get married. He won’t be able to go through those things on his own either. Needless to say, he’s had a huge impact on my life.”
“Brett was a good guy. He had a lot of friends and I’m glad you could all come and support what he stood for, what he lived for and what he died for. I miss him an awful lot, we’re going to for the rest of our lives, but he is my hero,” he said. “He and his brother, Nikk.”
To contribute to the Brett Wood Memorial Foundation to help fund a memorial statue, mail monetary donations to 400 West 7th Street, Bloomington, Indiana, 47404, payable to the Brett Wood Memorial Foundation in care of attorney Carl Lamb.
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