Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Nick Walsh, I salute you.

Nick Walsh, I salute you by Leigh Bratina

About three weeks my former neighbor was gunned down and murdered- a solider at war. It sounds harsh to say the words, but it is true. When I got the news, it seemed like a could it be? I didn't even know that he was serving in the military. Life has taken each of our families different directions. It has been years since I have seen them. All I could think of was a boy of about 12, standing in the green grass below a wooden children's fort, watching his brothers, Ian (6) and Flynn (5) play with my son Brock (5). Nick Walsh (still a boy in my head and will always be)...was.... So good. So mature, you need not be concerned about this preteen straying from the right path. He was one that you knew , you just knew, would turn out "right".

He did. He became a solider. One of strength, yet compassion, One that was always thinking and caring for others, even in his final visit with his young wife and two babies-the day he left to go back oversees. These are the things I will think of when I think about Nick. He will live on in my mind as a innocent boy standing outside in the yard monitoring and keeping watch over the younger children....monitoring and watching -just as he died. I am proud and fortunate to have once known such a person, a young man.

Today is fathers day. Today so many fathers will not be home with their children. Remember them and pray for their families. Think of how fortunate we are to have the the military we have, how we are blessed to live in this country. How faceless strangers wake up to go out and face a spray of bullets..... for us......strangers, Americans. Our heroes. We are so blessed to be Americans!

WORTH NOTING Doing something good
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Marine Sgt. Nicholas Walsh believed in the U.S. mission in Iraq so firmly, he rejoined the Marines after being out for two years so he could serve in Iraq. The 1998 John Carroll Catholic High School graduate was nearly two months into his second tour in Iraq when he was killed in Fallujah on Saturday morning by an enemy sniper.
Walsh's mother, Maggie Hall Walsh, a former reporter for The News, said the 26-year-old "wanted to be there. He felt like he was doing something good." The Walsh family now lives in Fort Collins, Colo. Walsh joined the Marines soon after being graduated from John Carroll, served for four years, then left the Corps. He rejoined two years later and was leading a reconnaisance unit on patrol when he was killed. Survivors include Walsh's wife, Julie; and sons Triston, 4, and Tanner, 4 months, along with his parents, two brothers, a sister, grandparents who live in Fort Collins, Co., and a grandfather who lives in Arlington, Va. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Walsh's family and friends.

John Carroll grad dies in Iraq
Marine slain by sniper Saturday
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
News staff writer
A 1998 John Carroll Catholic High School graduate was killed in Iraq Saturday after returning in April for his second tour of duty.Marine Sgt. Nicholas Walsh, 26, was killed by enemy fire in Fallujah.His family said Monday he died doing what he loved."He was prepared, he was ready to go, he knew the stakes," said his mother, Maggie Hall Walsh. "He was a proud Marine."
Walsh, a reconnaissance soldier, enlisted in the Marine Corps right after his graduation from John Carroll and served four years. He was out of the service for two years and then re-enlisted, finishing up his first Iraq tour in March 2006.
On Saturday, while out on a patrol in a convoy, Walsh was struck in the neck by a sniper. His gunnery sergeant, Lawrence "Buck" Doyle, who tried to save Walsh by pushing him back into the vehicle, was shot in the arm and leg.Walsh is the son of Jerry Walsh, a former INS special agent in Birmingham, and former Birmingham News reporter Maggie Hall Walsh, who raised Walsh since he was 5 years old when she married his father. They now live in Fort Collins, Colo.
Maggie Walsh said Monday she spoke to her son by phone the night before he deployed on April 1. "We said all the things you say when your son is going off to war: Keep your head down, we're proud of you, we love you,"
she said.

Loss in Iraq
Sunday, June 17, 2007
It is 4:40 on a Sunday morning, two weeks after the phone call from our daughter-in-law. The call that felled me to my knees on the front lawn, an hour after one of our sons walked across the stage in a crimson gown. Done with high school, future certainly uncertain. "Nick's dead. Shot in the neck. In Fallujah." My biggest boy, the one who was 6 when his dad married me. I taught him to tell time and to read. He threw up on me. I rubbed his shoulders sore from football two-a-days. I taught him to hold his baby brothers gently, protecting their fragile necks.
It is 4:40 in the morning. Jerry snores, finally sleeping after a fortnight of grief. After a noble journey from one coast to the other to sit in a chartered jet next to his son one last time.
I listen to his rhythmic snore and think of the sound of a Humvee starting in the desert, its engine grinding awake. Crying.
I think of Julie, back on base waiting for her husband's personal items to arrive - without him. Will the musical card I sent, the one with Gloria Gaynor singing "I Will Survive," be among the effects? I hope someone has thrown it away. I wonder how Julie and the boys will survive.
My mind races to our 5-year-old who has been having nightmares and wonders aloud if her heart will always feel broken. My mind rests on a photo I took of her and her Marine brother side-by-side, washing his maroon Bronco. Both have their tongues stuck out at the camera.
I think of Flynn, 16, who idolized his big brother; Flynn, just back from football camp where he spent three days running from reality and bashing other boys; taking out his grief in a physical way. A sanctioned version of punching a hole in a bedroom wall. I think of him crumpled on our bedroom floor, collecting beads that had exploded off a bracelet Nick made for him. The string had failed as the little brother wrote the words he would publicly recite at his big brother's funeral the next day. Even strong things break. What about Ian? He graduated high school and began his life the day his brother lost his. I think of his canceled party, the "Congratulations Ian" cake on the counter days after the big day. I remember how Nick loved that baby brother; placed him on his lap, sleeping, while he read his second-grade reading assignment. I have a photo of that ... somewhere.
I knew this would happen. I had a recurring vision of someone on the roof of a building. I told Nick to keep moving; don't stand still; duck and weave like a boxer. He said he would.
I used to be able to protect him. "You're too close to that river." "You're too high in that tree." "You're driving too fast." I could do it with my voice, my Mom look, by grabbing hold of his hand. I think of the funeral arrangements he and I made the last time I saw him. It was Feb. 24. "Save Julie the pain of decision making." I felt compelled. He easily complied. Did he know, too?
It's 4:40 in the morning. I look at the clock and wonder what I should do. I have to do something to ease the pain in my chest, the crush of 3,000 pairs of combat boots. Should we go to church today? The carnations and red and gold roses will be gone. The flag-draped casket won't be there. Will people wonder what we're doing there - this family of failed prayers?
Will Fiona want to light a candle for Nick? Will the thought of dropping two quarters into the metallic box and lighting a small blue candle - "God bless Nick" - fracture her little heart more?
It's 2:40 in the afternoon in Fallujah. It's hot and dusty, maybe 120 degrees. Nick's guys are working - ducking and weaving. Who's leading them? Who's making them laugh and reassuring them? Who's holding them gently, protecting their fragile necks?
I get out of bed and wander. Past the American flag folded in a triangle. I learned to fold a flag like that in Girl Scouts. I glance at the pile of sympathy cards and unopened thank-you notes. I pluck the tiny flag out of the last dying bouquet of red and white flowers. Step by step.
The sun is coming up. It's a peaceful, clear morning. I feel a ray of promise, like maybe we'll make it through another day. I promised Fiona we'd build a fairy house today. It seems like a good day for that.

Maggie Hall Walsh, a former reporter at The News, lives in Fort Collins, Colo., and works for Colorado State University. Her son Nicholas R. Walsh was killed in Iraq in May, two days before Memorial Day. Today would have been Nick's 27th birthday. E-mail:


Anonymous said...

nice site you got there

Leigh said...

thanks JOhn.

Beth said...

I just came across your blog in googling about Nick. I babysat for Ian and Flynn when the family lived in Anniston! I loved (still do) Maggie - she was my confirmation sponsor.

This was an awesome post!

Leigh said...

Hi Beth! They are a special family, very devoted to one another. I know that they will get through this-because of their strength, faith and dependancy and love from one another.