By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
For the parents of the late Sgt. Bradley Atwell, there was gratitude and perhaps even some closure Monday, as state and local leaders gathered to remember the fallen Marine.
With about 20 members of Atwell’s extended family looking on, state Reps. Mike Karickhoff and Heath VanNatter presented a joint resolution of the Indiana General Assembly, honoring the sacrifice the aviation electrician made Sept. 14, 2012, in Afghanistan.
“I stand before you saddened and humbled,” Karickhoff said. “He was a hero, fighting for the highest cause, our democracy. Men like Sgt. Atwell guarantee our government shall not perish from the Earth.”
Insurgents launched a sneak attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, and Atwell died in the firefight, protecting his fellow warriors and the base’s flight line.
At Monday’s meeting of the Kokomo Common Council, the family was finally able to receive the honors the Legislature passed in December.
His stepmother, Kimberlee Atwell, said Monday may have been the last public memorial display the family will attend.
“It does open up some wounds,” she said.
“We are really and truly appreciative,” she said. “Even though our grief is something we still feel, we know the loss of Bradley was so much bigger than us. That was so evident in the funeral process.
“I think it shows how patriotic our community is, and how heartfelt all of the community’s support has been. It encourages us, and it helps us. It allows for that closure.”
His mother, Cheryl Atwell, said she wished her son could have been present to see how much he meant to the community.
“He loved the Marine Corps, and he loved the Marines he was protecting,” she said.
Atwell’s military awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and NATO Service Medal-International Security Assistance Force.
His actions during the firefight at Camp Bastion added to his legacy.
During his funeral service at Chapel Hill Christian Church in September, Staff Sgt. Jimbo Montemayor, who served for a time as Atwell’s superior, said the attack was carried out by around 15 insurgents, who were dressed in U.S. Army uniforms. They infiltrated Camp Bastion with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, he said.
“Sgt. Atwell, at the sound of enemy fire, ran and beat down doors screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘Grab your gear, Marines, and let’s go,’” Montemayor said. “He ran towards enemy fire to engage the enemy, as any well-trained sergeant should.
“I’ve seen that intensity numerous times when he was in training,” he continued. “I can almost guarantee that he pursued the enemy without any fear of losing his life. These are the actions of a true hero.”
According to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, insurgents attacked aircraft parked on the flight line and inside aircraft hangars, destroying six jets and significantly damaging two more. Three refueling stations also were destroyed.
“Bradley epitomized the Marine Corps ethos of the honor, courage and commitment,” wrote Lt. Col. P.D. Waugh in a letter to the family, which was read at the service. “He lived it every day in the way he looked out for his Marines. You can be sure the Marines who worked and fought beside him will never forget the dedication and sacrifice that he made.”
Buried in Albright Cemetery, he left behind his wife, Danielle, who lives in Yuma, Ariz.
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.