|From The Daily News Online tdn.com
Celebration of life for Spc. Mikayla Bragg set for Thursday; flags half-staff
By Amy M.E. Fischer / The Daily News | Posted: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 9:35 pm
Gov. Chris Gregoire has directed that flags at all Washington state agency buildings be lowered to half-staff Thursday in memory of Longview's fallen soldier, U.S. Army Specialist Mikayla A. Bragg, who died Dec. 20 while serving in Afghanistan.
Flags should remain at half-staff until close of business Thursday, or first thing Friday morning. Other government entities, citizens and businesses are encouraged to join in this recognition.
Locally, a celebration of life will be held for Bragg at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Kelso Eagles, 609 S. Pacific Ave., Kelso.
"Anybody who wants to come pay their respects, they can do it there. That's where we'll all be," Bragg's stepmother, Amber Bragg, said Tuesday.
The 21-year-old Mark Morris High School graduate was shot and killed while on guard duty in the Khowst Province along Afghanistan's southeast border. She'd been deployed from Fort Knox to Afghanistan last summer and was scheduled to return from her first tour early this month.
About 60 people attended Bragg's military memorial service at Fort Knox in Kentucky on Dec. 29. Her remains were flown to Joint Base Lewis McChord on Tuesday, Amber Bragg said.
The date and place of a funeral still have not been determined.
"We're just kind of in limbo right now," she said.
Mikayla Bragg's father and stepmother, Steven and Amber Bragg, live in Longview. Her mother, Sheyanne Baker, lives in Shelton, Wash.
|From The Daily News Online tdn.com
U.S. Army specialist from Longview killed in Afghanistan
By Erik Olson and Marqise Allen / The Daily News | Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 7:30 pm
A female Mark Morris High School graduate was shot and killed Wednesday in a guard tower in Afghanistan, according to the soldier's stepmother. U.S. Army Specialist Mikayla Anne Bragg is Cowlitz County's first casualty in a combat zone since the Vietnam War, according to Daily News archives.
Bragg, 21, was scheduled to leave Afghanistan around Christmas and return to the United States on Jan. 6, stepmother Amber Bragg of Longview said Thursday.
Army officials have not yet confirmed the death or released any information about the incident. Bragg's father, Steve Bragg, flew to the U.S. Air Force base in Dover, Del., to identify her remains, her stepmother said, adding that the Army is planning to conduct an autopsy.
Bragg enlisted right after she graduated high school in 2008, Amber Bragg said.
Family members said Bragg was deployed from Fort Knox in Kentucky to Afghanistan in August. She graduated basic training at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., and she was classified as a sharpshooter because of her accuracy with a rifle.
According to her Facebook page, Bragg's primary duties were as a motor transport operator for the Third Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.
Bragg will be buried in Longview but the family has not set a date for the funeral.
About 1,700 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the war in Afghanistan since it started in 2001.
Survivors include mother Sheyanne Baker of Shelton, Wash., sister Kandyce Bragg of Shelton, half-brother Allen Davids, currently serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army, and half-siblings Joseph Bragg and Ariel, Darien and Julian DeForge.
Mikayla Bragg joined the Army to earn money to pay for college and she hoped to go into a field helping people or animals, Amber Bragg said, adding "She's always been a kind-hearted person. She's always gone out of her way to help out other people in whatever way she could."
Best friend Tiffany Holst, 21, remembers Bragg, who loved "goofy kid movies" like "Finding Nemo" and "The Spongebob SquarePants Movie," would always cry when Bambi's mother died when watching the Disney film.
"She was always like that," Holst said. "She loved animals."
The Bragg family recently moved to a different home in Longview, which Amber Bragg said resulted in a slight delay in the family being notified by the Army. Once family members were informed in their front yard, Amber Bragg recalled a man working for a tree service across the street noticed something was wrong and offered to help without giving his name.
It was a bright moment in an otherwise tragic day, she said.
"He brought us dinner for our family and brought us a gift card to help out with whatever we needed. You don't see that anymore," she said.
In the living room of the Braggs' Highlands neighborhood home, framed photos of the children cover the walls. Next to the kitchen doorway, "Kayla" — as her friends and family called her — is at a high school formal dance in a red gown, posing with her date in a tuxedo and top hat.
Family and friends said she had a unique presence, once sporting a mohawk haircut and sometimes wearing skirts with jeans underneath.
"She definitely had her own style," said Denae Smith, who once worked with Bragg at the Walgreen's drug store along Ocean Beach Highway. "She was the one with the crazy hair and crazy makeup. I wouldn't call her gothed out, but she was definitely wild."
Beneath Bragg's dark-clad exterior and distinctive makeup choices, Smith said her kindness always came through.
A certain cranky customer once entered the store looking for batteries and brought Smith to tears after a few days on the job. Smith said it was Bragg who tried to joke around and cheer her up after helping the customer.
"She made everybody laugh," her friend Holst said. "She was sweet and caring."
She also was a young woman with typical desires and doubts. Bragg was excited to join the military for the adventure and better pay, but was afraid to leave her family behind and dreaded the thought of being deployed.
"But she was strong. ... And she liked the bases," Holst said. "She liked looking at all the guys. She didn't like wearing her uniform because it made her look like a guy."
Holst exchanged messages with Bragg via Facebook seven hours before she died, and the two talked about men in their lives and how they looked forward to seeing each other when Bragg returned.
Tiffany's mother, Linda Wheeler, reminisced how much Bragg changed as she transformed from a meek 12-year-old girl she first met into an outgoing woman.
"You would've had to have met her to know Mikayla," said Wheeler. "We watched her grow up into a mature, wonderful woman. She was a heck of a character, she would always help people smile. And she'd always let you know if you were doing something you weren't supposed to be doing. ... She died a hero in my eyes."
A sampling of messages posted on Mikayla Bragg's Facebook page after her death:
• "RIP Kayla Bragg Thank you for serving our country and I can't believe at the end of the war, war took your life. I am so sorry for her friends and family my heart goes out to them!!"
• "It's so hard to accept that you're not here physically but you will always be in my heart. I'm so glad that I got the chance to meet such an amazing person like you. I don't think you know how many smiles you put on peoples faces; especially mine. I love and miss you. R.I.P. Kayla Bragg."
• "You were definitively one of those people who always just said whatever u wanted to whoever and damn the consequences, Always had respect for you, and I'm definitively going to miss you..RIP"
• "my worst nightmare came true today. and i have no idea how to handle it. you were always the person i went to when i felt i couldnt continue on. and now you are gone. i love you so much."
|From The Daily News Online tdn.com
Army vet leads charge to create memorial for fallen Longview soldier
By Marqise Allen / The Daily News | Posted: Saturday, March 31, 2012 8:30 pm
Kristopher North never knew Army Specialist Mikayla Bragg, but he wanted to make sure everyone remembered her.
"I overheard her mother say that in six to eight months no one would will remember who she was, and that's when it hit me," North said, recalling a moment during January's celebration of life service for the fallen Longview solider.
So North, a 43-year-old Longview Army veteran, started raising money to build a memorial for Bragg a few weeks later.
Bragg, a 2008 Mark Morris High School graduate, was shot and killed Dec. 20 while on guard duty in Afghanistan's southeast border region. She was 21.
Bragg was almost two weeks away from finishing her first deployment when she died. She was the first Cowlitz County soldier killed in a combat zone since the Vietnam War. Her death is still under investigation, and specific details have not been released.
North has raised $2,500 to build a 44-inch tall bronze fallen soldier battle cross in a courtyard at Mark Morris. However, donations have dried up over the past few weeks, and he has to raise the remaining $2,500 by the end of April if the memorial is to be built before the end of the school year in June.
"It's really important," said Steve Bragg, her father. "She influenced a lot of people at the school. ... It's something we'd like to have done so future generations know that freedom comes at a price, and to let everyone know who she was and the sacrifice she gave."
Another memorial for Mikayla s planned later this month, when a memorial tree is planted for her at Lake Sacajawea.
Bragg and North said raising the final $2,500 would be a tall task, but that it could be done. They're organizing fundraisers to make the final push.
"If I had a way to put up one for everyone who died over there, I would," North said. "But if I can help people just remember one of them, I'm doing my part."
Donations to the Mikayla Bragg Memorial Fund can be made at any Fibre Federal Credit Union location.