(Taken from www.thenewstribune.com) Pfc. Brian R. Bates Jr. wasn’t afraid to fight for his country, said the grandmother who raised him.
“It didn’t faze him in the least that he was going to war,” said Bates’ grandmother, Marline Tully of Gretna, La. “That was what he had to do and what he was trained to do.”
Bates, 20, was one of eight Fort Lewis soldiers who died last week in Afghanistan in two separate attacks. He is survived by his wife, Enjolie, and a 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
“He loved the Army and he wanted to make a career out of it,” said Enjolie Bates. “He was a great guy, a great husband and a great dad. His kids were Daddy’s boy and Daddy’s girl.”
The Department of Defense released details of Bates’ death Saturday. The Stryker vehicle driver died Oct. 27 in Kandahar of wounds suffered when his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive.
Seven other Fort Lewis soldiers also died Oct. 27 in a separate attack in southern Afghanistan.
Bates was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. He deployed to Afghanistan in July with others from Fort Lewis’ 5th Stryker Brigade.
Bates enlisted in the Army in 2008 and was on his first deployment when he was killed.
“Brian had a hard life,” said his grandmother, who said her grandson’s first child was born when Bates was only 17. “He had to grow up fast. A lot of young men might have walked away, but he took full responsibility, and he was by their side as best he could be. He did what he needed to do.”
Tully said Bates worked for a time in Louisiana’s offshore oil industry, but got interested in an Army career after talking to a recruiter.
He saw the Army as a way to take care of his family, she said. She worried about the risks of war, even as they laughed together during his weekly phone calls to her from Afghanistan.
“He tried to shield me,” Tully said. “I’d say, ‘Watch where you put your feet, Brian,’ and he’d laugh. He’d tell me, ‘We roll over those bombs all the time.’”
Enjolie Bates said she, too, spoke frequently with her husband while he was deployed.
“I talked to him the night before his mission,” she said. She said Brian never shared details, but he did let her know that there was serious fighting going on in the region where he was deployed.
“It still came as a shock,” she said of her husband’s death. “When those two guys showed up at my door, I thought they were here for some other reason.”
She said she has been keeping close to her kids as the family prepares to head back to Louisiana for her husband’s funeral and burial.
Bates came to Fort Lewis in March, following training at Fort Benning, Ga. His family followed in April.
Enjolie Bates said she has been surrounded by members of an Army care team since she learned of her husband’s death. She said neighbors have been bringing her food.
Back in Gretna on Saturday, Tully described flags flying at half-staff all over town in honor of the fallen soldier.
“He would have been proud,” she said. “He was a very brave young man. I’m very proud of him.”