Veterans thankful for America, freedoms

Published 3:37 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

Sgt. Charlie Brundidge has served the people of Luverne by protecting its streets for the last ten years; however, he also knows what it is to protect his country.

SSG Brundidge spent 18 months at Ft. Benning, Ga., during “Operation Enduring Freedom,” and from May of 2007 to May 2008, he served in Taji, Iraq, with the 1103rd CCSB (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) out of Eufaula. The 1981 Dozier High School graduate was the training NCOIC in Iraq, and he knows the meaning of being thankful.

“Things that we take for granted are things that are a privilege to the Iraqis,” he explained. “We don’t know how blessed we are…Our kids have the privilege of being kids, and their kids have to work just for the family’s survival.”

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Just two days after his unit arrived on the base, they were hit by mortar attacks; three soldiers were killed and several were injured.

“We were in charge of the convoys that transported supplies from Taji to different camps throughout Iraq,” he said. “During those convoys, we had three soldiers killed.”

“The camaraderie among the troops when tragedy struck is something that will stick with me forever. We’re just thankful God took us over there safely and brought us back safely.”

While SSG Brundidge was in Iraq, his mother, Mrs. Nealie Muriel Brundidge of Brantley, passed away. He was able to come home for two weeks for the funeral.

But Brundidge wasn’t the only Crenshaw County soldier in his unit. Serving with him were SGT Steve Smith of Luverne, SFC Ricky Beck of Luverne, and SFC Michael Sport of Highland Home.

While in Iraq, the four men received many care packages and boxes from home—something that was a lifeline to all four.

“I was like a kid at Christmas,” Brundidge said. “I couldn’t wait to open it and see what was inside—there were some things we couldn’t get over there.”

“Sometimes, we’d run out of essential items, and we looked forward to those care packages,” he added. “That’s why I say we should be so thankful for what we have.”

Smith agreed.

“I want to thank the people of Crenshaw County and the churches – everyone – for those packages, and especially for their support…The support was overwhelming,” Smith said. “There was nothing like getting a letter from a complete stranger encouraging you.”

SFC Ricky Beck missed his children while he was away serving his country.

“It was very hot over there,” Beck said. “I’d think about the green trees and green grass back home.”

SFC Michael Sport laughed and added, “I told my wife that I wouldn’t fuss about mowing the grass at all this year.”

All four men agreed—there’s no place like home.

And, because of that extra love and support from home, Brundidge wanted to do something special for the Luverne Police Department and the city of Luverne.

Brundidge presented Luverne Police Chief Paul Allen with the American flag that was flown over Camp Taji in April 2008. On July 4, the flag was flown in Douglass Park in honor of all the soldiers who have served our country. The flag has since been put permanently inside a display case at the Luverne Police Department.

“We just don’t know how good we have it,” Brundidge said.