Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Cat For A Fallen Marine

I never knew Bradley Faircloth. We both lived in the same town, he graduated from my high school and he was the same age as Sprout, but I never met him. He was a Marine who died on Thanksgiving day, 2004 while defending our freedom in the battle of Fallujah.

The year he graduated from school, his senior class attempted to raise enough money to have a statue of a panther, the school's mascot, erected on the campus. My senior class left the school a sundial sitting on a pedestal next to the flagpole...a far more obtainable goal. The last time I looked, the pedestal was still there, minus the sundial. Though the class of 2002 fell way short of raising enough money to buy a panther statue, Bradley didn't give up hope and before he left for Iraq, he told his mother that if he didn't make it back, he wished that she would see to it that the school got it's panther.

Yesterday the school got it's panther. (That's my sister introducing herself)

I wanted so bad to go to the unveiling of this statue, just to be a part of a sort of memorial for a fallen soldier, but the best excuse I could come up with for leaving work was that as a military mom, I sympathized and that just wasn't good enough. We all sympathized. After work yesterday afternoon, Sis and I went over and took pictures and declared it a worthy statue. The money that poured in after Bradley Faircloth's death was enough for a statue, a huge rock pedestal, a well laid brick flooring, landscaping, two engraved marble slabs and lights all around.

Bradley's mom did not want the statue to be a memorial to her son, she just wanted his wishes fulfilled. And that is as it should be. If this statue held an American flag or bore the name of a fallen soldier, it would always be sacred, untouchable...not the idea the soldier or his class had in mind I think. No, this panther should always be decorated on Homecoming Day with gaudy paper flowers and blue and gold streamers, and used as the back drop for yearbook pictures for years to come, and as a place for happy school memories to be made. It should not even be a sin if students from the school's arch-rival (Sprout's alma mater) should decide to sneak over after the "big game" and paint the score on the side of that panther in bright orange paint in years when they win, giving the City's cannon a much needed rest after 75 years of drive-by paintings. I think this young hero and football player would want it that way.

But they did find one small way to make this statue a monument to Bradley. A line from the school song engraved in marble says enough.

An honored soldier, a worthy monument. Thank you Bradley Faircloth.

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