Fort Lewis Memorial: Going back to Louisiana
DEBBIE CAFAZZO; The News Tribune
Pfc. Brian Russell Bates loved bragging about his home state of Louisiana, and never tired of telling his fellow soldiers about how he had survived Hurricane Katrina.
The 20-year-old’s easygoing demeanor, sense of humor and the way he talked made him stand out, even though he was a relative newcomer to his unit.
But in a memorial service for Bates held Thursday at Fort Lewis, soldiers remembered the enthusiastic mechanic, Stryker driver and machine gunner for other virtues as well.
Bates, a member of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, died Oct. 27 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device, the Defense Department said.
Bates belonged to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, in which he served in the 1st Platoon, Attack Company. He was assigned to Fort Lewis in March.
“He was hard-working, sure of himself,” a friend, Staff Sgt. David Gutierrez, said of Bates. “He would always accomplish the task at hand.”
Gutierrez’s remarks, originally offered at a unit memorial held in Afghanistan, were read aloud Thursday by Spc. Riley Ryan.
Bates was also known as a devoted family man.
“You could hear the pride in his voice whenever he spoke of his children,” Gutierrez remembered.
Bates, 20, had joined the Army in September 2008, hoping for a long career that would provide support for his family, his wife, EnJolie, told The News Tribune earlier. The couple are the parents of two children, daughter Rylie, age 2, and son Braiden, age 1.
His family, including the grandmother who raised him, Marline Tully, gathered in Louisiana this week. Bates was to be buried today in his hometown of Gretna, La.
Bates deployed to Afghanistan in July with the rest of his Stryker brigade.
He was one of eight Fort Lewis soldiers who died in a pair of insurgent attacks Oct. 27, marking the day as the deadliest yet for Fort Lewis troops since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The other seven men who died, members of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, are to be memorialized Tuesday at Fort Lewis.
On Thursday, mourners listened as Ryan related another story about Bates from Gutierrez. The story was about his habitual speech patterns.
“He used a lot of double negatives. And he knew this drove me crazy,” Gutierrez recalled, as mourners laughed.
But he offered a farewell that his buddy would surely have appreciated: “I didn’t never know how much I would miss you. Your memory will live on with the men of 1st Platoon.”
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635