Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 3, 2007
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Brandon Bechert sat among the flowers left in front of a framed picture of his father, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Bechert. With one tiny hand he picked up a rose and shook it. The smile that had been on his young face all afternoon as adults paid their last respects to his father showed itself again.
Not yet 2 years old, Brandon didn’t seem to know just what was going on Monday as he sat in the front pew of the Ledward Barracks chapel. As soldiers recounted stories of the young boy’s father, he pointed to the ceiling and played with a small toy.
When gunshots rang out in salute of his father he didn’t flinch or frown. When taps played, he smiled and sputtered.
But Brandon’s mother, Daniela, and the soldiers who filled the pews knew exactly why they were there: To remember Bechert, who died June 14, more than two weeks after he was wounded in a roadside bombing that killed three of his soldiers in Baghdad.
Bechert, a member of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, was one day short of his 25th birthday.
During a memorial ceremony in Baghdad, his platoon leader, 1st Lt. Forrest Ryan, recounted the day he met Bechert, who had a reputation for being a hard worker and for working his soldiers.
Bechert’s wife had just given birth to Brandon, and he was on leave when Ryan arrived at the unit.
Bechert showed up to work in civilian clothes, and another soldier pointed out the hard-driving staff sergeant to Ryan. Ryan walked over to Bechert to find out why the soldier with the new baby was at work rather than at home, said Staff Sgt. Matthew W. Colleary, who read Ryan’s comments at the memorial ceremony.
“He told me he just wanted to check on a few things and see what was going on that day,” Ryan said. “Bechert hung out for a little while before Ryan had to kick him out of the office. That’s just the way Bechert was.
“As soon as he knew his wife was fine at home, he would come into work for a little bit and make sure everything was still running the way it should be.”
Bechert wasn’t looking for recognition or praise for all his hard work and dedication.
While in Iraq, Capt. Seth George, a chaplain, made the mistake of asking Bechert about the Purple Heart he was awarded for an injury he received during his first deployment to Iraq with the 1-18.
“He was too modest to talk of those things in a cavalier way,” said Col. James M. Brown, the brigade’s rear detachment chaplain.