A Life Lost Out of the Spotlight

Millions around the world will remember the day Michael Jackson died. Martha Gillis will, too - but she'll be thinking of someone else. She shares her Opinion with us now:

My 24-year-old nephew, Brian Bradshaw, died in Afghanistan on June 25, killed by an IED, but you'd never have known it from the national media.

I cannot tell you how that silence added to the pain of losing this bright, funny, thoughtful young man, whom I remember so vividly as a toddler, wandering the house in cowboy boots and hat (and nothing else).

I suspect it's a pain shared by many of the 4,000-plus grieving families whose loved ones have sacrificed their lives in two wars that have largely disappeared from the news.

When I flew West for Brian's funeral, the mayor of his small home town personally met each of dozens of flights of arriving family members. Flags flew at half-staff. Six hundred people attended the funeral service.

That is partly a testament to Brian's remarkable capacity to connect with people and leave a lasting impression - his lopsided grins were so infectious. It is also a testament to the level of caring and support the town offered to my bereaved sister and her husband.

Even the desk clerk who checked us into our hotel attended, as a simple gesture of common humanity.

Along the route from the church to the cemetery, people came out of their houses to stand with their hands over their hearts or to wave small American flags. Cars going in the opposite direction stopped. Some drivers got out to stand in respect.

To all of them, I say "Thank you. You know how to honor those who serve to protect you."

Once I left town, though, soldier's deaths once again became invisible.

Because of the incredible kindness of the people of Steilacoom, Wash., however, I wonder how many other people, in Maine or Texas or New York City, would also have honored Brian and the other soldiers who have died in the last two weeks if the media had simply let them know:

Somebody's little boy died today. Someone's little girl found out today that Daddy is never coming home.

That news is hard to bear; when the nation they died for barely notices, it's crushing.

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