Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Army Cpl. Phillip J. Brodnick

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Phillip J. Brodnick, 25, of New Lenox, Ill.

Cpl. Brodnick was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Aug. 22, 2007 in Multaka, Iraq, of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed. Also killed were Capt. Corry P. Tyler, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul J. Flynn, Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman, Spc. Rickey L. Bell, Capt. Derek A. Dobogai, Staff Sgt. Jason L. Paton, Sgt. Garrett I. McLead, Cpl. Jeremy P. Bouffard, Cpl. Joshua S. Harmon, Cpl. Nathan C. Hubbard, Spc. Michael A. Hook, Spc. Jessy G. Pollard and Spc. Tyler R. Seideman.

Family mourns soldier who died in helicopter crash in Iraq
By Duaa Eldeib Staff writer

Even in his death, Phillip J. Brodnick made his family smile.

As they sat somber and grief-stricken after learning the 25-year-old was among the 14 U.S. soldiers killed Wednesday in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in northern Iraq, an unexpected package arrived.

"It was my birthday present," said Brodnick's mother, Marian Stockhausen.

Wrapped inside was a chess set to commemorate many an online game and a note that read "Sorry it was late, but I was playing it."

The gift that arrived at his mother's Warrenville home more than a month after her birthday turned tears to laughter -- if only for a moment

"It was kind of him saying he's OK. He's with God," Stockhausen said.

Although the family tries to take solace in the symbolic goodbye that now sits in a glass china cabinet in the living room, dealing with losing a loved one so young is devastating.

"It's like a roller coaster, a black hole," Stockhausen said, wiping away tear after tear.

The recently promoted Army corporal who was deployed to Iraq last August was supposed to be home in June, but his tour was extended to October. His mother realizes those four months were the difference between life and death, but she doesn't dwell on it.

"He accepted it," she said.

So does she.

As tears streamed down her face, her two daughters Kimber Larson and Lisa Brodnick held her hand and searched for their own strength.

"He just always wanted to make sure I was taken care of," 20-year-old Lisa Brodnick said.

When he e-mailed them, he wrote about family vacations every summer and promised his mother he'd go to church with her.

"That was a big deal," Larson, 27, joked.

Dedicated and deserving

As a way to serve his country and "find himself," Brodnick enlisted in the Army when he was 18, Stockhausen said. After a tour in Kosovo, he was back home in 2003, only to re-enlist in 2005.

"He knew that our country needed him, so he went back," Stockhausen said. "He was a dedicated soldier."

Dedicated and deserving of the utmost respect, his father, James Brodnick, said as he grappled with the "unbearable loss."

"I take comfort in knowing that my son did not die alone, but died in the company of other brave men who also gave their lives for our country. My deepest condolences go out to the families of these brave men. I will say a prayer for your sons while I pray for mine," he said in a statement.

Brodnick was of the nine of those killed who were based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Sen. Daniel Inouye, (D-Hawaii) said. His body will return home Tuesday, and once arrangements are made, Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will speak at his funeral, officials said.

Father and son were very close, James Brodnick said as he fought back tears.

During Brodnick's time home, he lived in Chicago and applied to police departments in hopes of following in the footsteps of his father, a 25-year Burbank police veteran.

'Very likeable and always smiling'

Brodnick was born in Mokena and became his grandfather's namesake after sharing his grandfather's birthday. He lived in Burbank until he was 8, then moved to Frankfort, said Stockhausen, who is the principal of Richard E. Byrd Elementary School in Burbank. In 2000, Brodnick graduated from then-Lincoln-Way High School.

Lincoln-Way Central principal Monica Schmitt remembers Brodnick's smile and upbeat attitude.

"He was very social, very likeable and always smiling," Schmitt said.

Students at Lincoln-Way schools were greeted with flags at half-staff for their third day of classes Thursday. They paused for a moment of silence.

At East's home football game tonight, another moment of silence likely will greet a stadium full of mothers, fathers and teens not much younger than Brodnick.

Brodnick is the second soldier lost from Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 in three months. Spc. Jacob M. Lowell, who graduated from Lincoln-Way Central in 2003, was killed June 2 in Afghanistan.

"We have very patriotic students," Schmitt said. "They understand service to country."

When Brodnick wasn't training Iraqi police or serving as an infantry scout, he was instant messaging his family and friends, updating his account and sending home presents.

The morning after his death, someone left this message for him on his page: "You touched my life in a special will always have a special place in my heart....thanks to you I will live every day to the are a TRUE American won't be forgotten."

A tan stuffed camel with a camouflage cap sits in his mother's living room. He sent the same present -- along with treats, balls and toys -- to his German Shepherd Dozy, the object of his affection.

And though Phillip was famous for his love of animals, Lisa Brodnick didn't send him a picture of one to help get him through the days. She sent a poster of Marilyn Monroe.

"He was the quintessential guy's guy and ladies man," Larson said.

His girlfriends would tell him how lucky they were that his sisters taught him the importance of bringing a girl flowers.

With a little brother like Brodnick, it's hard for Larson to pinpoint what she'll most about him.

"Just him -- so much," she said.

Army Cpl. Phillip J. Brodnick was killed in action on 8/22/07.

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