Friday, April 20, 2018
Military News

Mourners recall soldier Brittany Gordon as 'uncommonly brave and uncommonly kind'

ST. PETERSBURG — Cedric Gordon spent many days alone in his living room, hoping he would never see a stranger in uniform walking to his door.

As the father of a deployed soldier, it could only mean something bad.

But Gordon, St. Petersburg's assistant police chief, tried to put it out of his mind. He learned to comfort himself.

His baby served in an elite unit. People were praying for her. What were the chances she wouldn't make it home in December from her first overseas assignment?

On Oct. 13, Army Spc. Brittany Bria Gordon, an Army intelligence analyst, was killed when a suicide bomber attacked her unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan, becoming the first female soldier from Tampa Bay to die in the recent wars.

The 2006 St. Petersburg High graduate, the only daughter of Cedric Frank Gordon and Brenda Thompson Gordon of St. Petersburg, was 24.

"I kept asking God: Why Brittany? Why my daughter? Why my baby girl?" Gordon told a standing-room only crowd gathered for his daughter's funeral Saturday at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church. "But I know that knowing God is better than knowing why."

• • •

It was hard for people not to like Brittany Gordon.

"Most of us, when we go through life, are looking for the real deal," said former St. Petersburg police Chief Goliath Davis, a close family friend. "She was the real deal."

Brittany Gordon was fluent in French and played the piano and alto saxophone. She played soccer for several years and ran long-distance. At St. Petersburg High, she was captain of the girl's basketball team and the manager of the boy's basketball team.

She also had a special role at family functions.

"She was the official 'taster,' " said her uncle, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Gordon, Jr., recalling his niece's notorious appetite.

Her parents didn't have to push her to become independent. She was like that from the beginning, they said.

When she decided to go into the military in 2010, she threw herself into training. In order to make a weight goal, Brittany Gordon exercised two hours a day, twice a day — even while working 12-hour shifts at an assisted living facility.

When she graduated from basic training, her dad met her at the airport. He tried to carry the three large duffle bags she had brought, but she wouldn't let him.

"She said, 'Dad, I got it,' " he said. "That was Brittany."

Mourners watched as a collage of pictures of the young woman looped on a projection screen behind her flag-draped coffin. Army officials presented her family with a few of her honors: the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge.

They described the young woman as a "true American hero," who was "uncommonly brave and uncommonly kind." She was buried Saturday in Thonotosassa.

"We as a nation, we need to think long and hard about the consequences of war," her father told the mourners, which included Mayor Bill Foster, the City Council and U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. "Brittany, maybe she died to bring us all together. Maybe she died protecting her fellow man. Maybe she died so we could all love each other more."

Gordon and her father last spoke to each other two days before she was killed. The 34-minute conversation was filled with happy talk of family and jokes about Cedric Gordon's plans to retire from the Police Department next year.

Then Brittany got serious, Cedric Gordon said. She got quiet.

"She said, 'Dad, I've been going on missions,' " he said.

Gordon said he asked his daughter how she felt about that, a situation those in the military refer to as going "outside the wire."

"She said, 'Dad, I don't mind. I've been volunteering.' Then she said, 'Dad, I love you,' and I said, 'I love you more.' "

Gordon, who went to Miami for the weekend, expected to hear from his daughter the following Saturday morning. When she didn't call, he figured she'd gotten busy. Later that evening, an Army official called. They were at his door in St. Petersburg and said they needed to speak with him about his daughter.

"I have been shaken to my core," Gordon said. "But I know that he is a mighty God. He is a mighty, mighty God."

Gordon said he takes comfort in the community's support. But not the six words he heard when his daughter's remains were returned to the United States. Those words, he will never forget. "On behalf of a grateful nation …"

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

Comments
Howard Altman: Tampa company analyzed strike on Syrian facilities

Howard Altman: Tampa company analyzed strike on Syrian facilities

After President Donald Trump announced the U.S., France and England had carried out attacks on three Syrian chemical weapons centers, a Tampa company began its own analysis of the bomb damage.The analysis, by geospatial intelligence firm Radiant Solu...
Published: 04/20/18
Howard Altman: Air Force turns to original Phillie Phanatic to develop mascot

Howard Altman: Air Force turns to original Phillie Phanatic to develop mascot

Air Mobility Command, the Air Force headquarters overseeing MacDill Air Force Base, wants to develop its own mascot to help interest children in a career with the flying branch. And they are turning to the original Phillie Phanatic, David Raymond, fo...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/12/18
Trump says U.S. to decide on response to ‘atrocious’ Syria chemical attack in 24 to 48 hours

Trump says U.S. to decide on response to ‘atrocious’ Syria chemical attack in 24 to 48 hours

Washington PostWASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that his administration would be making "major decisions" about its response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria within the next 24 to 48 hours, decrying the action as "atrocious" and...
Published: 04/09/18

North Korea tells US that Kim Jong Un ready to discuss nukes

Associated PressWASHINGTON — North Korea’s government has communicated with the United States to say that leader Kim Jong Un is ready to discuss his nuclear weapons program with President Donald Trump, officials said Sunday, increasing the likelihood...
Published: 04/08/18
Air Force pilot killed in Iraq helicopter crash honored at Tampa funeral

Air Force pilot killed in Iraq helicopter crash honored at Tampa funeral

TAMPA — Air Force Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe was the kind of guy who lived to help others, which is why he was in the co-pilot seat aboard an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter when it took off March 15 from a base in western Iraq.A graduate of Tampa Bay Technic...
Published: 04/05/18
Updated: 04/06/18

4 Marines killed in helicopter crash in California

LOS ANGELES — Four Marines were killed when their helicopter crashed while they were practicing desert landings in Southern California, the Miramar air station in San Diego said Wednesday. The Marines took off from a ground-combat center in the city ...
Updated one month ago
Howard Altman: Syrian pullout creates concerns

Howard Altman: Syrian pullout creates concerns

Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesday, Army Gen. Joseph Votel did not sound like a guy who was planning on pulling American forces out of Syria."We are in Syria to fight ISIS," Votel said about the Sunni jihadi group. "That is our missio...
Updated one month ago
Haley VA director personally presents clinic plans to Sun City Center

Haley VA director personally presents clinic plans to Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Blanche Sullivan was undeniably impressed.Joe Battle, director of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Clinics, took time out of his busy schedule to drive to Sun City Center and personally facilitate the March 30 town hall mee...
Published: 04/02/18
Updated: 04/05/18
International commandos to show off capabilities in Tampa again in May

International commandos to show off capabilities in Tampa again in May

Be afraid Mayor Buckhorn.Be very afraid.The bad guys might be after you again.You know the ones. They show up every other year in Tampa and capture you, only to see you rescued by a cadre of international commandos swooping in on helicopters, inflata...
Updated one month ago
For military veterans suffering from PTSD, are service dogs good therapy?

For military veterans suffering from PTSD, are service dogs good therapy?

JACKSONVILLE BEACH — Adam Fuller credits a simple, one-word command — and a black Lab mix named J.D. — for helping to save his life. "Cover," he tells J.D., who is sitting to his left in a grassy field next to a park playground. The dog calmly walks ...
Updated one month ago