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Tom Sileo's op-ed column: The Unknown Soldiers
ATLANTA--Despite an intrinsic fear of flying, Pfc. Brandon Goodine volunteered at age 18 to become a U.S. Army paratrooper.
"The first time he was on a plane was to jump off it," the soldier's mother, Mandy Watson, often says.
As I drove down a rural Georgia highway on June 18, the classic Steve Miller Band song "Fly Like an Eagle" started playing on my car radio. But despite the soothing music and bright sunshine, this wasn't just another hot summer morning in McDonough, Ga.
Less than a mile from my destination, I encountered a stark reminder of the day's importance that commanded every motorist's attention.
Surrounded by blue flashing lights, American flags, and Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles, a hearse carrying the flag-draped casket of Pfc. Goodine made a slow right turn. As the procession reached the church, soldiers greeted the fallen warrior's coffin with salutes, while onlookers stood with their hands on their hearts.
As I walked into the small Baptist church, one of two banners hanging above Goodine's flag-draped casket stood out. On it was a majestic bald eagle, along with "God Bless America."
The first speaker, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Pat Donohue, told the grieving audience about four qualities that made Goodine, 20, a great 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper.
"He was selfless. He was fearless. And he was a friend," Donohue said, later adding that the fourth quality was the soldier's authentic love for his family.
Goodine and fellow paratroopers in the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment showed extraordinary bravery, the general said, by confronting terrorists in the Maiwand District of Afghanistan's Kandahar province on June 7.
"Everyone in Brandon's unit knew it was a dangerous place when they learned of their mission," he said.