It is human nature to seek comfort in another human being, and when the guy sitting next to you has been there for months at a time, a friendship is usually struck. It becomes easy to spill your thoughts and feelings to someone that knows what you are currently living through. Doing the same dangerous shit every day forces you to find this companionship. It happened to me at the fire department and on board
the Navy ship in the Persian Gulf too. You need someone that understands so that your emotions do not get the better of you. Having no one to hear you is a quick way to lose your mind in a war. Brian had told me all about a guy name Chaz Crawford, who he had met during his days as an elite U.S. Army Airborne Ranger. When Brian joined the Army, he went straight into the elite U.S. Army Airborne Rangers, where he met Chaz Crawford during in-processing. They both served in Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, together for their entire time in. They were as close as brothers, and they had a lot of
great times together. We have shared countless stories, and Chaz was in a lot of them. They were both deployed together in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. After returning from Afghanistan and ending their military tour of duty, Chaz went home to Louisiana to raise his family and start college. He also took care of his sick sister, who lived with them also. Brian did not want to leave the
brotherhood he fell in love with, and now that he was out, he decided to join the contracting world. Brian joined AEGIS and was soon back in war.
Chaz and his family had a hard time paying the bills while he was going to school. Chaz asked Brian to put in a good word for him, so Brian worked to get Chaz hired into AEGIS also. After Chaz was hired, he was placed at a different location than Brian in Iraq, working site security. Since there was more money to be made working for DOS and a tougher job all together, Brian and Chaz both applied for Triple Canopy and also for their secret security clearance. It did not take too long for Brian to receive his clearance, and he was soon moving into our Living Area (LA) at Tallil AFB, Iraq. Chaz continued to work with Aegis, waiting for his clearance to come through so he could walk on to TC as well. After only a couple weeks working with TC, Brian got the news. While on duty, a suicide bomber tried to get inside the area Chaz was securing. Chaz pushed forward towards the bomber to keep him away from the compound and personnel. It went off, killing Chaz. Brian blamed himself for this, feeling as if he left him behind somehow even though he knew it was all Chaz’s decision; he just could not find a way to forgive himself somehow. As a young child, Brian personally found his father dead when he committed suicide. This was enough trauma to last a lifetime, his mind scarred with that memory only to be extremely exacerbated when hearing the terrible news. As far as I knew, Brian was never briefed after the bombing. Nobody came around to offer him any support or to chat to him about losing a friend. Not a soul from AEGIS, or anyone else for that matter, talked with him. It was an unspoken rule that you were expected to take it and move on.
In remembrance of Chaz Crawford the Iraqi’s named a children’s school after him. The plaque for the school reads:
“We, the local council of the village, accept this project to help the children of the village. We dedicate it to the memory of Chaz Crawford, an American who worked for the Iraq people in this area. This project will help the children have a better education and make their skills better for Iraq’s future.”
After some time when Brian returned home he began his new civilian path as a full time college student. During this time, one night Brian had been waiting at his girlfriends house for some friends to show up for a night on the town. It was the anniversary of 9/11 and he had a tradition of spending it with friends to subdue his true feelings from that awful date in history. They arrived and found him dead. After several complaints to a few friends that he wasn’t having any luck with the VA, a friend of his gave him a few oxycodone for the pain from his war injuries. He had never taken it before and thought it was better than nothing. He soon had an allergic reaction to the stuff, he did have a history of several allergies to medications in the past and he was fully aware of this as part of his medical history. But I also know PTSD robs you of your logic and your self-awareness and crushes your confidence to a point where you can either become very desperate or almost catatonic. It was your average dose, according to the autopsy. After everything he had survived, he died a senseless death and died alone knowing that he reached out for help to the VA and was turned away like an undeserving vagrant. As a cannabis advocate, I truly believe if Brian had the option to use it medicinally either in place of opiates or psychotic drugs he would have chosen it hands down. The government run VA refuses to support soldiers personal choices in what medicine they decide to use after returning home with injuries from ‘their war’ (not mine). In fact, they can lose all of their benefits and possibly more if they even DARE to choose their own medicine over the pills that have been stripping away their soul piece by piece. We go to war hidden behind the lies of so called freedom and carry the pain back with us…..where is the freedom of choice for these warriors when they set foot on so called “free soil”? Don’t you believe these soldiers deserve to choose their own medicine? It sickens me that we are NOT, while the government continues to lie to OUR face in order to keep cannabis a schedule I “drug” (so Big Pharma can continue to make huge $ on the misery of us all).
While Brian was attending college he wrote this passage in remembrance of Chaz and all those who were lost to the darkness of war. I write this to keep his memory alive, RIP my friend….you are deeply missed by many.
Written by a fallen soldier, for a fallen soldier.
The fear of being forgotten has always weighed heavily on my mind. As much as I wish it had been me who died on the battlefield, I did not. So I continue to fulfill my purpose, protecting the sheep from the wolves, in hopes of changing lives, and molding memories for those I love and know. How will my family and peers remember me? Or will I be remembered at all? There are several lives that are never spoken about due to embarrassment or dishonor in my family. My mission is to never fall into this category.
The best ways to describe my family’s feelings toward my father and cousin’s lives after they died were shame and embarrassment. One day, my alcoholic father committed suicide via shotgun. To this day, we really have no idea why. My cousin died from an overdose at the age of eighteen, another family member falling into the forgotten category. The only picture my family has displayed is dusty and sits in the corner. Their names are only whispered from one blue moon to the next. Their names died with them.
However, men and women who die fighting for freedom, or protecting family and friends, receive a different response from the people who knew them. There are ceremonies, awards, twenty-one gun salutes, etc. There are a million ways to die. But for someone to make the ultimate sacrifice for a belief, or while saving a life, is perceived as the most unselfish act, no matter what your culture.
Chaz Crawford was my best friend. He died on March 14, 2006. To make a long story short, Chaz was the first to see the suicide bomber trying to enter into his team’s controlled perimeter. Chaz stopped the vehicle in his sector, preventing it from gaining entrance. The suicide bomber detonated his vehicle, killing only Chaz. Chaz’s actions saved the lives of fifteen people that day. He was my closest and most trusted friend who I had the honor of knowing from in processing into the army to his death. I see his family on a regular basis. While visiting, we tell stories of his actions, and the effects
he had on our lives. His story, and others that I served with, is displayed on my body, in the form of tattoo art, to be remembered for the rest of my life. Chaz, and others like him, will be remembered for generations to come, as the people who knew them name children in their honor. I trek through life with purpose. My feet dig in deep as I shoulder the weight of knowing my footsteps in life could be forgotten. I strive to create an impact, worth knowing and following. Hopefully, the memory of who I am, my accomplishments, the lives I have affected, and the ripples I have made will echo past my own breath. I don’t want to be one of the forgotten.
Brian Adam Reese, Army Ranger (RIP)
Written July 1, 2008
English–Louisiana University at Lafayette
Doc Gage and Brian ‘Hershey’ Reese