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Army Pfc. Brandon T. Pickering

Died April 10, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

21, of Fort Thomas, Ky.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died April 10 in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of wounds sustained April 8 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade.

Polk soldiers die in separate Afghanistan incidents

Alexandria (La.) Daily Town Talk

Two Fort Polk soldiers have died from wounds suffered in combat in Afghanistan.

The victims were Pfc. Brandon T. Pickering and Sgt. Keith T. Buzinski were part of the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, which is taking part in Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Pickering, 21, was an infantryman from Fort Thomas, Ky., assigned to 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s Task Force Warrior. He was posthumously promoted to private first class. He had been based at Fort Polk since April 2010.

Buzinski, 26, of Daytona Beach, Fla., was an infantryman in the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. He had been stationed at Fort Polk since September 2009.

Buzinski, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, was killed in Logar province April 7 during an attack on his unit with firearms in Logar province, the Army reported.

He previously had served a tour of duty in Iraq, from September 2007 to November 2008.

His awards include Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Service Ribbon, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, two Overseas Service Ribbons and NATO Medal.

Pickering, whose nickname was “Pick,” died April 10 in a hospital in Germany after being wounded in Wardak province in Afghanistan two days earlier in an attack from combatants using firearms and a rocket-propelled grenade, the Department of Defense reported.

Among Pickering’s awards were Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Army Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal, NATO Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Ten members of the 10th Mountain Division troops stationed at Fort Polk have been killed since soldiers from the division deployed to Afghanistan in October, officials reported.

Ky. high school honors fallen graduate

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT THOMAS, Ky. — Highlands High School students observed a moment of silence April 14 for a graduate who died after being wounded in action in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department said April 13 that Army Pvt. Brandon T. Pickering, 21, died April 10 in Germany of wounds suffered April 8 in Afghanistan.

Pickering and his unit were in Wardak province when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire and a rocket propelled grenade, according to the Defense Department.

Pickering was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.

After being wounded, he was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where he died.

Pickering was a 2008 graduate of Highlands High School, said Brian Robinson, the principal of the Fort Thomas school.

Robinson said the school would like to work with the family to see how they want to honor Brandon’s memory and his service to the country.

“As a school, we join the Fort Thomas community and the family in mourning of his loss,” Robinson said.

Robinson was an assistant principal while Pickering was a student there and became principal a year after Pickering graduated.

Based on his contacts with teachers who taught Pickering, Robinson said, Pickering was unassuming student with a big heart, a good sense of humor and dedication to helping others.

“The courage and strength that Brandon demonstrated in volunteering to serve his country as an Army infantryman are qualities all can learn from and admire,” school officials said in a news release.

Flags at the school were lowered to half staff and will remain there until Pickering’s funeral.

Family, friends, schoolmates remember Pickering

By Mike Rutledge, The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT THOMAS, Ky. — Army Pvt. Brandon T. Pickering certainly was a hero to his community and his country, but he also should be remembered as joyful, caring and fun to be around — even goofy sometimes — speakers said April 16 during an event remembering the fallen soldier.

Laughter sometimes interrupted tears and sobs, just as daylight made its way through drizzle and lit the Highlands Middle School gymnasium from windows near its high ceilings.

Former Highlands High School student Stephanie Orleck told a large crowd occupying the gym’s bleachers Pickering was one of the funniest, most free-spirited people she knew: Even on bad days, “I was always able to turn to Brandon to bring out a smile on my face,” Orleck said.

Another former classmate of the 2008 Highlands graduate said, “If you heard laughing in class, you knew it was Brandon.”

The 21-year-old Army infantryman died April 10 in Germany from wounds he suffered in Afghanistan’s Wardak province. Enemy forces had attacked his unit.

A poignant moment happened during the ceremony when Pastor Charles Russell of New Hope Christian Center in Newport asked the crowd to lift white candles for Brandon.

“This is for you, Brandon,” Rev. Russell said, as hundreds of gleaming flames further brightened the gym. “We love you; we thank you; we give you this day.”

“He’s touched people, literally, all over the world,” Highlands High School Principal Brian Robinson told the crowd.

“I’ve known him since he was born,” said a cousin, Jenny Warr. “I’m very proud — very proud.”

She asked people to “keep us in your prayers — may God be with us. ... We appreciate the support.”

Another cousin, Jerry Helton, agreed Pickering had a marvelous sense of humor, but: “He also had the brave, firm side.”

The crowd milled past numerous photos of Pickering during happy times — his senior portraits, and fun spent with friends and family. Other photographs showed him as a teenager goofing around in a Ninja costume, and later enjoying recreation with his military unit overseas.

“Our friend. Our hero. You will always be in our hearts,” one sign with the photos read.

During most of the two-hour-plus event, a CD of peaceful instrumental music with ocean waves in the background played over the loudspeakers.

The Rev. Russell advised those in deep pain: “Right now don’t lean to your own understanding. ... Let God begin to operate in your life.”

Many who gathered were comforted to hear reports that came from his Army colleagues that the young man who could make a joke out of nearly any sad moment, and who hated to see people cry, was in notably good spirits during his final month.

The gathering was held in the middle school gym because the high school was festooned for prom. Just outside the middle school, with the American and Kentucky flags lowered to half staff, the blue-and-white Highlands flag below them.


Ky. roadway named after fallen pfc.

By Amanda Van Benschoten, The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT THOMAS, Ky. — Army Pfc. Brandon T. Pickering gave his life for his country. Now, the Fort Thomas road where he grew up will bear a permanent reminder of that sacrifice.

The 21-year-old Highlands High School graduate died April 10, 2011, from injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade in Wardak province, Afghanistan.

On July 28, the street where he grew up — River Road — was renamed the Private First Class Brandon T. Pickering Memorial Highway.

The mile-long state route runs from state Route 8 along the Ohio River, to South Fort Thomas Avenue next to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, and veterans from the hospital attended the dedication ceremony to honor their fallen brother.

“He was just a fine young man from Fort Thomas, and it’s tragic,” said state Sen. Katie Stine, who sponsored the resolution to rename the road. “It’s tragic that we’ve lost a life with so much promise. And it’s important, I think, that we have a constant reminder to all of us what sort of sacrifice the freedom that we enjoy requires and involves.”

A highly decorated soldier who received Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, Pickering is also remembered as a funny, adventurous young man who loved to fish, and who had a mild mischievous streak – the worst trouble he gave his mother and stepfather was a school suspension for putting a mousetrap in a fellow student’s locker. He grew up on River Road, attending Woodfill Elementary, Highlands Middle School and Highlands High School.

“When he got out of high school, he was just like any other teenager: He didn’t know what he wanted to do,” said his stepfather, Mike Moore of Alexandria. “He just came home one day, and he had already signed up for the Army. There was no talking about it. He just did it. In a couple of years, he went from somebody who didn’t know what he wanted to do, to somebody who – he found his home in the Army, I think.”

Pickering was a member of the 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s Task Force Warrior based in Fort Polk, La.

Part of a two-man machine gun team, Pickering was six months into his first combat tour when he was killed. His parents said his unit came under a surprise attack on April 8, and he was critically wounded. His fellow troops dropped their weapons to get him to a medical helicopter, which flew him to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. By the time his mother, father and stepfather arrived, Pickering had been declared brain dead.

“I feel like that was Brandon’s day to leave the Earth, and the Lord let him go in a way that was honorable,” said his mother, Tammy Moore. “Even if he had been in my lap that day, I wouldn’t have been able to save him.”

Pickering was an organ donor, and his final sacrifice was the gift of life for four Germans, including a 6-year-old girl. His parents said they don’t know the organ recipients’ identities but have been informed all are doing well.

He was laid to rest in Alexandria Cemetery, and his tombstone bears the words, ‘Live a life worthy of my sacrifice.’ “People should think about that — not just for my son, but all these sons and daughters, and the ones in the past,” said his mother. “What people have sacrificed to keep this country free — freedom isn’t free, and it’s not cheap. It comes at a high cost, and we all have a responsibility to each other and to this nation.”

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