521 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Hagan Honors Fallen NC Servicemembers on Senate Floor
Urges country to remember those who are still fighting
Friday, September 21, 2012
Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Kay Hagan spoke on the Senate floor in honor of North Carolina servicemembers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. With more than 6,000 North Carolina men and women still deployed, Hagan also urged the country to remember those servicemembers who are fighting every day. Excerpts from Hagan's speech are below:
"From my home state of North Carolina alone, there are more than 6,000 of our finest sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads deployed in Afghanistan.
"Sometimes, I feel as if the war is hardly an issue in the news, in daily life, anywhere, except for those who are personally affected by it. We do not hear enough about the brave souls who have lost their lives while trying to make the world safer for the rest of us.
"As we scale down our presence in Afghanistan and bring most of our service men and women home, we must remember every day that this war is still going on. And it is occurring at a tremendous cost. A cost that is disproportionally paid by the brave men and women who are fighting for the rights and privileges we enjoy.
"These men and women traded their youth and spent years away from family and friends. They voluntarily put their lives on the line for their friends, their loved ones, their country, and for people they have never met. For me and for you."
Senator Hagan's remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
Senator Kay Hagan
September 20, 2012
Floor Remarks - Fallen Servicemembers
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to speak for up to twenty minutes as if in morning business.
Mr. President, eleven years have now passed since the attacks of September 11th, that horrific day that forever changed the world.
Although we have killed Osama bin Laden, the fight against the al-Qaeda militants is not over. Al-Qaeda remains a threat to America, and the brave men and women of our armed forces are still fighting every day to protect our way of life.
Mr. President, I want us to honor and remember these men and women. There are over 77,000 U.S. servicemembers deployed in Afghanistan right now who remain in harm's way. These men and women willingly joined the military during a time of war and ask for nothing in return. They want nothing more than to serve our country. They fight for our way of life, so that we don't have to and so that our children and grandchildren will not have to.
I am going to highlight three Servicemen from North Carolina who made the ultimate sacrifice. I have personally spoken with their families and I want to share their great love of country with you-because it is SO important that ALL Americans understand our military and their families sacrifice for all of us.
From my home state of North Carolina alone, there are more than 6,000 of our finest sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads deployed in Afghanistan. They are the men and women of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, Second Marine Division, Second Marine Aircraft Wing and Second Marine Logistics Group from Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point.
They are the men and women of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They are the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve Units from North Carolina.
They are the thousands of other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed to foreign lands to stand watch over the world and keep us safe.
Sometimes, I feel as if the war is hardly an issue in the news, in daily life, anywhere, except for those who are personally affected by it.
Our focus is too often drawn to news of the elections, of the economy, of politics, of celebrities, of scandals, of the rich and famous, and of the simply bizarre.
We do not hear enough about the brave souls who have lost their lives while trying to make the world safer for the rest of us.
We all need to pay respect, to honor and to remember, the very men and women whose commitment, dedication and courage are what make our country strong. To respect and remember the families they left behind.
As we scale down our presence in Afghanistan and bring most of our service men and women home, we must remember every day that this war is still going on. And it is occurring at a tremendous cost. A cost that is disproportionally paid by the brave men and women who are fighting for the rights and privileges we enjoy.
These men and women traded their youth and spent years away from family and friends. They voluntarily put their lives on the line for their friends, their loved ones, their country, and for people they have never met. For me and for you.
These men and women are the almost 50,000 wounded in action since the start of this war. They are the 336 U.S. service members lost in just this past year. They are the 54 coalition forces lost in the month of August alone. They are strangers to most of us. They are the most important person in the world to someone.
They are selfless defenders of our freedom, many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, many of whom are from my home state of North Carolina.
They are people like Corporal Darrion Terrell Hicks, United States Army, from Raleigh, NC who died on July 19, 2012- just 2 months ago.
Darrion was a 2009 graduate of Broughton High School, where he was a stand-out student who was loved and respected by all.
Darrion always wanted to be a soldier. It was a goal he set early on and something everyone remembers about him. It is a goal he pursued with diligence and honor. He was a model Junior ROTC student who was voted Mr. Junior ROTC by his peers.
Darrion is remembered as the kind of young man a teacher wishes all of their students were like.
He was the boy you wanted your children to be friends with. He became the kind of man we should all be so thankful to have in this world. When I was speaking with his mom, Tracy, she shared with me that he was the kind of boy who never gave her a problem. Ever.
Corporal Hicks achieved his goal of becoming a Soldier when he enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He loved the Army and it seemed that he had found his place in life. He loved his family and kept in close contact with his mother. Whenever he spoke with his mom, she would tell him "Always pray. Be Safe. I love you," to which he would respond, "I am going to be fine. I love you, too."
In 2012, he was serving with the 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade as a Sapper. Sappers are responsible for clearing the way for others, for making the way safe for those that follow. This is what Corporal Hicks was doing when he was killed by an enemy IED. He was only 21 years old.
As one of his teachers at Broughton said, "When we talk about Darrion, we're not talking about a teacher making an impact on a student. We're talking about a student who made an impact on the teacher."
Corporal Hicks made an impact on everyone he touched and I think we all have something to learn from him and the life he chose to lead.
They are people like Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean E. Brazas, United Sates Navy, from Greensboro, North Carolina, where I have lived for the past 30 years. Sean died on the 30th of May, 2012.
Sean was your all American boy-next-door. He grew up playing soccer in the same traveling soccer league that my son played in and he was on the swim team.
He graduated from Western Guilford High School and could have done anything, but he wanted to do something important with his life.
Petty Officer Brazas joined the Navy after graduation and became a doghandler. He was stationed at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington State, where he met the love of his life, Allie, who is also in the U.S. Navy. Sean met Allie when, being the southern gentleman that he was, he held the door open for her at the post office. Putting others first was just how he lived his life.
Petty Officer Brazas loved being a dog handler and loved being in the Navy. He had a wife, who is now a 23 year old widow, and young daughter-Addison-whom he nicknamed Short-stack. They were the center of his world. His life as a Sailor, devoted husband and loving father was rich and full, and tragically short.
Petty Officer Brazas had only been in Afghanistan a short time when he died on May 30, while helping a fellow service member get into a helicopter when their unit was ambushed. That seems to define Sean-a man who selflessly did what he could to help others.
Petty Office Brazas served his country proudly, because he appreciated the rights and privileges that Americans are fortunate to enjoy. He wanted to make sure that his daughter never had to worry about anyone telling her what books she could read or where she could go to school or what she could become.
He wanted his mother, father, wife, and daughter to be safe.
He died a hero and now rests at Arlington with his grandfather and friends who have left the world too soon.
He died as a man that his father, Ed looks up to. Ed told me that he hopes to be half the man his son was.
They are people like Lance Corporal Christopher Phoenix Jacob Levy, United Sates Marine Corps, from Ramseur, NC who died on December 10, 2011.
On 9/11, Jacob had just turned 11 years old. He had gotten a bloody nose at school, and his mom, Amanda, was called to bring him a change of clothes. She shared with me that she was driving to his school when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. When Amanda explained what had happened to Jacob, she says that Jacob then said that he would be in the military. He was only 11 years old at the time.
Jacob joined the Junior ROTC at Eastern Randolph High School, where he was a standout runner and wrestler.
He was also a proud, active member of the Lumbee Indian tribe. That is why he has the name Phoenix, from his Indian heritage. It stands for immortality and renewal.
In 2009, Jacob fulfilled the goal that he set in 2001. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and graduated from Boot Camp. He planned on being a Marine for 20 years, retiring, and then returning to his hometown to giveback to the JROTC and his community.
It is clear that, from an early age, Jacob was driven to be a part of something more than himself, to do his part for the greater good. That was just how he lived his life.
Lance Corporal Levy deployed to Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines and returned home from his first tour on Mothers' Day 2011. However, Jacob told his mom that his job was not yet done, that he needed to return to his brothers-in-arms in Afghanistan.
He volunteered to deploy again in the Fall of 2011, this time with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines out of Camp Lejeune. It was during this deployment that he was mortally wounded by a single enemy shot.
He was only 21 years old.
A couple weeks before he died, Jacob spoke with his mother for the last time. He told her not to worry about him. He asked for underwear and beef jerky. He asked her to tell everyone he loved them.
Jacob left his mother, father, stepfather and two brothers.
Jacob's Indian name, Phoenix has proven a worthy namesake for him.
Although his life was tragically short, he lives on in the lives he touched. He inspired a scholarship at his high school that will go to help others and, as an organ donor, he helped save 7 other people that he had never met. He gave the loved ones of those 7 strangers more time with their parent, spouse, child or sibling.
His death resulted in an outpouring of love and support for the Levy Family from the Marines of both Three Eight and One Six, which speaks volumes of the kind of person Lance Corporal Levy was and the kind of people we have serving this country. As Jacob's mom told me, "I may have lost one son, but I gained 30 others."
To this day, the young men who served with Lance Corporal Levy continue to remember and look after her. These are the people who are paying both your share and my share of the cost of freedom
These service members gave their lives for us and for our country. We must not forget them. Darrion Hicks, Sean Brazas and Jacob Levy. We must not forget their families. We must not forget the men and women still deployed in harm's way. They come from our small towns, our big cities and rural areas. They are our neighbors. They are our fellow Americans. They are our heroes; they are my fellow North Carolinians.
To these men and women, to their families, we owe an eternal debt of gratitude. May God bless them and may God bless America.