Bradley Joe Skelton
February 6, 2008
Killed in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device during combat operations.
|Answering the call for help
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Back in 1992, a new bishop was assigned to serve Missouri in my religious denomination. Because she was unknown to most of us, an audiotape of one of her sermons was sent to me and every other United Methodist pastor in the state. In it, Bishop Ann Sherer used Isaiah 6:1-8 as a text. She focused on verse 8, which says: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I; send me!'"
Bishop Sherer has been reassigned to another state, but her message on this scripture remains memorable. She asked, "If God calls and you don't go, who will? If God calls and you say the time is not right, when will it be right?"
My mind remembered that now-lost cassette tape when I heard of the circumstances regarding the recent death in Iraq of Staff Sergeant Brad Skelton, a man previously unknown to me. I do know some men who knew this departed soldier well, and here's the thing: Mentioning Brad Skelton's name brought smiles to their faces. I didn't know him, but I visit the Gordonville Grill from time to time; the patrons of this eatery had more than a passing acquaintance with Brad. When someone we admire dies, we discover — without much effort — that we knew someone who knew someone who knew him or her. It's the idea of "six degrees of separation."
Yes, Isaiah 6:8 comes to mind when I think of Brad Skelton. He had already served in Iraq; he had already done his tour of duty. No one could ask more of him; no one did. Yet the job is still undone in Iraq, and Brad knew that. His reasons for returning practically shouted the message of that Old Testament passage:
He had close friends doing a second tour. He thought his experience might help protect U.S. soldiers new to Iraq. As a man without a spouse and children, he thought he could "give someone a break that had a wife and family."
Brad Skelton had many medals and commendations to his credit. Yet it was his selfless intentions that have a voice more persuasive of his heroism than any combat ribbon. His death on a second tour reminds us of how many others have gone back into harm's way again in places we'd have a hard time finding on a map. If you begin to despair about people, if you start to think folks just don't care anymore — I offer the example of Brad Skelton and so many others who put themselves at risk for something greater than themselves.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer did exactly that. A celebrated theology professor from Germany, Bonhoeffer — a young man like Brad Skelton — was out of danger as Adolf Hitler rose to power in his native country. He had a job teaching at a seminary in New York. Yet Bonhoeffer went back, telling his American colleagues that he could not stand by in idleness and safety while his countrymen suffered under tyranny. Bonhoeffer returned to Germany. He was arrested and hanged in April 1945, just days before the Allies liberated the concentration camp where he was being held.
What Bonhoeffer did by returning to Germany and confronting Hitler was no different from a firefighter rushing back into a house fully involved with flames, hoping to save one more person. No one forced him; in fact, many tried to dissuade him. Bonhoeffer went anyway. Guess what? Brad Skelton did the same thing by returning to Iraq. He didn't have to go back into the cauldron. And here's the kicker: Brad actually was a fireman. Six degrees of separation.
"Who will go for me?" the Lord asks. Brad Skelton answered, "Here am I; send me!"
Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers
|Staff Sergeant Bradley Joe Skelton of Gordonville was on his second tour with the Missouri National Guard, one which he volunteered to come out of retirement for after a 23-year career when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on February 6, 2008. An outdoorsman and dedicated soldier, Skelton began his military career in 1984. More than 800 community members, family, and friends attended his funeral.|
|Thursday, February 14, 2008 as reported in the Southeast Missourian
SSG Bradley Skelton
Staff Sgt. Bradley Joe Skelton, 40, of Gordonville died in Baghdad on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008. He was a "Sapper" on his second tour in Iraq with Missouri National Guard's 1138th Engineer Company, headquartered in Farmington, Mo. He was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.
Skelton was born July 29, 1967, in Cape Girardeau, to Harold L. "Chub" and Dorothy M. "Dot" (Willa) Skelton. Chub and Dot preceded him in death, May 28, 1994, and Aug. 7, 1998, respectively.
He was a 1985 graduate of Jackson High School. He joined the Missouri National Guard during his junior year, serving out of the 1140th in Jackson, the unit with which he made his first deployment to Iraq.
SSG Skelton's military awards and decorations include: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal 3, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" Device (Arabic Numeral 2 and Silver Hour Glass Device), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon 2, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon 5, Combat Action Badge, Weapons Qualification Badge (Bar — Weapon, Rifle Inscription, Expert), Driver and Mechanic Badge (Bar — Driver W for wheeled vehicles), State Military Awards: Utah National Guard 2002 Olympic Winter Games Service Ribbon, Missouri National Guard Commendation Ribbon 6, Missouri National Guard 20 Year Long Service Ribbon, Missouri National Guard Basic Training Ribbon.
His civilian employment includes the former Schaper's IGA and Ceramo in Jackson, BioKyowa, Tri-State Water and Elfrink Transportation in Cape Girardeau. He also served many years as a firefighter with the Gordonville Fire Department.
He was a member of Altenthal-Joerns American Legion Post 158 in Jackson, the VFW in Cape Girardeau and Christ Lutheran Church in Gordonville.
Immediate survivors include his sister Carmen (Jerry) Robinson and their children, Brian, Caleb and Christy of Sikeston, Mo.
Survivors of the paternal family include two uncles Charlie (Carrie) Skelton of Gordonville, Joe (the late Pauline) Naylor of San Antonio; an aunt, Evelyn (the late Bernard) Dake of Jackson; cousins, Pearla (Terry) Smith, Steve (Susan) Skelton, all of Jackson, Kent (Donna) Skelton of Perryville, Mo., Keith (Alice) Skelton of Oak Ridge, Patty (Gary) Matlock of Pocahontas, Becky Thorne and Connie Adams of Jackson, Donna (Russ) Whitworth of New Hamburg, Mo., Tanya Meeks of Sikeston, Stacey (Dave) Stephens of Alexandria, Va., Leslie Gestring of Caruthersville, Mo., Mark Skelton of Los Angeles and Tammy (Randy) Abbott of Fruitland.
Maternal survivors include an uncle, Allen (Betty) Willa of Melbourne, Fla.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a paternal uncle, Leo (Juanita) Skelton, and a paternal aunt, Pauline Naylor.
Arrangements are as follows:
Visitation will open with an American Legion Honor Guard Service at 3:30 p.m. Friday at McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson. Visitation will conclude at 8 p.m.
At 10 a.m. Saturday the cortege will depart from McCombs to Saxony Lutheran High School in Jackson. Members of Altenthal-Joerns American Legion Post 158 are assisting with traffic. As vehicles enter the parking area, they will be asked if they are attending only the service or both the service and graveside. Those planning to take their vehicle to the cemetery will be directed to park accordingly. Those attending only the service will be directed to a different area. Doors to the public will open about 10:30 a.m. The family will receive visitors until 12:15 p.m. Please make every effort to be seated by 12:45 p.m. to allow adequate time for ushers to distribute service bulletins and staff to make final adjustments prior to the service at 1 p.m.
Clergy will be the Rev. Gary Hoffstetter of Christ Lutheran Church in Gordonville. Vocalist and National Guard Retiree Steve Grant will present the solo "Welcome Home." Congregational hymns will include "Onward Christian Soldiers," "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Serving as casket bearers will be Missouri Delta Team of Cape Girardeau. Honorary pallbearers are Brian McCallister, Darren McCallister, Brett McCallister, Chris Illers, Mark Gones, Kent Koch, Gary Matlock Jr., Shawn Adams, Darren Helderman; brother-in-law, Jerry Robinson; and cousins, Keith, Kent and Steve Skelton.
The funeral will then travel in procession to Christ Lutheran Cemetery in Gordonville, with an estimated arrival time of 3 p.m. Full military honors will be presented by Delta Team of Cape Girardeau.
The cemetery is on a one-lane road next to the Gordonville School. Due to its location, immediate parking will be available only to the family; however, other parking areas have been secured by Gordonville Mayor Sheila Gross. Parking will be available at the old Circle S Saddle Company, Highway 25 and Route Z and Peters Heating & Air Conditioning, Langs' Trucking, the Christ Lutheran Church and the Gordonville Grill overflow lot. Shuttle buses will be available from each of these designated parking areas with parking attendants to supervise parking. Additional inclement weather could further restrict these conditions.
Memorials are suggested to Saxony Lutheran High School, Christ Lutheran Building Fund, Missouri National Guard's 1140th Engineer Company Family Support Group or Freedom is Not Free for aiding wounded troops, their families and the families of the fatally wounded (www.freedomisnotfree.com).
Sympathy messages may be sent to the family online at www.mccombsfuneralhome.com.
|More than 800 expected to attend soldier's funeral
Friday, February 15, 2008
By Peg McNichol
Hundreds of people are expected to attend visitation and funeral for Staff Sgt. Bradley Joe Skelton of Gordonville.
Skelton, 40, was killed by an explosion in Baghdad on Feb. 6. He was a "Sapper" on his second tour in Iraq with Missouri National Guard's 1138th Engineer Company, headquartered in Farmington, Mo.
More than 800 people are expected to attend his funeral.
"Although Brad wasn't married and didn't have any children, he had a very large extended family," said Christi Guilliams of McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson. "The family will have lapel pins on, a flag with a black ribbon."
That's just one detail to help visitors extend condolences.
Visitation, which starts at 3:30 p.m. today, will open with an American Legion Honor Guard service.
The 20-minute ceremony would typically occur later in the day but was moved "so the receiving line doesn't have to be disrupted," Guilliams said.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, a cortege will depart from the funeral home for services at Saxony Lutheran High School in Jackson. Members of Altenthal-Joerns American Legion Post 158 will direct traffic. Drivers should expect to be asked if they are planning to go from the service to the cemetery to keep parking organized.
The school's doors open after 10:30 a.m.; the receiving line ends at 12:15 p.m. so all can be seated by 12:45 p.m. Services begin at 1 p.m. with the Rev. Gary Hoffstetter of Christ Lutheran Church in Gordonville. Steve Grant, a National Guard retiree, will sing "Welcome Home."
The funeral procession to Christ Lutheran Cemetery in Gordonville, starts after the service. The cemetery is on a one-lane road next to the Gordonville School, so only family members will park nearby.
Others will get "all kinds of help with parking" in overflow lots, she said.
Shuttle buses will bring other mourners to the school from supervised designated parking at the old Circle S Saddle Company, Highway 25 and Route Z and Peters Heating & Air Conditioning, Langs' Trucking, the Christ Lutheran Church and the Gordonville Grill overflow lot.
Military honors will be presented by Delta Team of Cape Girardeau.
With a large funeral, Guilliams said, people comforting family members in the receiving line can help by being brief.
"Just extending condolences to the family and not taking it as an opportunity to catch up keeps the receiving line moving so it doesn't bottleneck the people," she said.
Visitation is from 3:30 to 8 p.m. today at McCombs Funeral Home in Jackson.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Sgt. Brad Skelton's military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
He has been posthumously promoted to staff sergeant.
Skelton is the fourth local soldier to fall in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army Sgt. Robert G. Davis, 23, died in Afghanistan on Aug. 18, 2005. U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Shank, 18, was killed in Balad, Iraq, on Sept. 6, 2006. 1st Lt. Dan Riordan died last June 23 in Taji, Iraq. The former Southeast Missouri State University student was 24 and a St. Louis native.
Skelton became the eighth Missouri National Guard soldier to die in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. To date, 3,950 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq and another 478 have died in and around Afghanistan.
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