To Whom It May Concern
Brooke M. Campbell
found out that my brother, Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, was dead during
a graduate seminar at Emory University on April 29, 2004. Immediately
after a uniformed officer knocked at my mother's door to deliver
the message that broke her heart, she called me on my cell phone.
She could say nothing but "He's gone." I could say nothing
but "No." Over and over again we chanted this refrain
to each other over the phone as I made my way across the country
to hold her as she wept.
I had made the very same trip in February, cutting classes to spend
my brother's two weeks' leave from Baghdad with him. Little did
I know then that the next time I saw him would be at Arlington National
Cemetery. During those days in February, my brother shared with
me his fear, his disillusionment, and his anger. "We had all
been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious threat to America
as well as its surrounding nations," he said. "We invaded
expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more prepared
and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It is now a year
later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction or any other real
threat, for that matter."
Ryan was scheduled to complete his one-year assignment to Iraq on
April 25. But on April 11, he emailed me to let me know not to expect
him in Atlanta for a May visit, because his tour of duty had been
involuntarily extended. "Just do me one big favor, ok?"
he wrote. "Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would
not be happy with you."
Last night, I listened to George W. Bush's live, televised speech
at the Republican National Convention. He spoke to me and my family
when he announced, "I have met with parents and wives and husbands
who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier
they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say
that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me. Where
does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with
sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved
one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was
precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I
have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic,
This is my reply: Mr. President, I know that you probably still
"don't do body counts," so you may not know that almost
one thousand U.S. troops have died doing what you told them they
had to do to protect America. Ryan was Number 832. Liberty was,
indeed, precious to the one I lost so precious that he would rather
have gone to prison than back to Iraq in February. Like you, I don't
know where the strength for "such pride" on the part of
people "so burdened with sorrow" comes from; maybe I spent
it all holding my mother as she wept. I last saw my loved one at
the Kansas City airport, staring after me as I walked away. I could
see April 29 written on his sad, sand-chapped and sunburned face.
I could see that he desperately wanted to believe that if he died,
it would be while "doing good," as you put it. He wanted
us to be able to be proud of him. Mr. President, you gave me and
my mother a folded flag instead of the beautiful boy who called
us "Moms" and "Brookster." But worse than that,
you sold my little brother a bill of goods. Not only did you cheat
him of a long meaningful life, but you cheated him of a meaningful
death. You are in my prayers, Mr. President, because I think that
you need them more than anyone on the face of the planet. But you
will never get my vote.
So to whom it may concern: Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do
it. I would not be happy with you.
Brooke M. Campbell
Missouri A soldier from northeast Missouri was among eight killed
April 29, 2004, in a car bombing in Iraq, the U.S. Department of
Defense said Monday.
Sergeant Ryan M. Campbell, 25, of Kirksville, was a member of the
Army's 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored
The soldiers were removing roadside bombs from a highway south of
Baghdad. Campbell's mother, Mary Ann MacCombie of Kirksville, said
the unit intercepted a station wagon crammed with 500 pounds of
ammunition, and the driver detonated an explosive.
Campbell was stationed in Germany before he was sent to Iraq. He
originally had been expected to return to the United States in April,
but his duty in Iraq was extended three months.
supposed to be home now," said MacCombie, recalling that her
son called twice Wednesday, a day before he died. "His last
words were, 'I'll be back in July.'"
Campbell joined the National Guard along with his best friend, Brendan
McEvoy, several years ago. The pair enlisted in the Army in February
MacCombie said Campbell was an avid outdoorsman and a talented drummer
who tried to assemble a band during his time in Germany. He graduated
from Truman State University in Kirksville and planned to attend
graduate school after completing his military service.
A memorial service will be Friday at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church
in Kirksville. A specific time has not been set. Campbell will be
buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
soldiers killed in the attack were Staff Sergeant Esau G. Patterson
Jr., 25, of Ridgeland, South Carolina; Staff Sergeant Jeffrey F.
Dayton, 27, of Caledonia, Mississippi; Specialist James L. Beckstrand,
27, of Escondido, California; Specialist Justin B. Schmidt, 23,
of Bradenton, Florida; Private First Class Ryan E. Reed, 20, of
Colorado Springs, Colorado; Private First Class Norman Darling,
29, of Middleboro, Massachusetts; and Private First Class Jeremy
Ricardo Ewing, 22, of Miami, Florida.
Campbell, Ryan Montgomery
SGT US Army
Veteran Service Dates: February
2002 April 2004
Date of Birth: 11/07/1978
Date of Death: 04/29/2004
Date of Interment: 05/11/2004
Buried at: Section 60 Site 7979 Arlington National Cemetery