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VICENZA, Italy — Pfc. Brian Lee Gorham thought he’d get some firefighting training when he joined the Army.

Gorham, who died Dec. 31 of wounds suffered in Afghanistan, had told a recruiter that he didn’t want to be in the infantry, according to Pfc. Russell Chappell, a friend speaking Thursday at a memorial ceremony at Caserma Ederle.

The recruiter then asked about fire support. Thinking that involved firefighting, Gorham made that his specialty. Chappell said he was able to laugh about it later.

Gorham, 21, was wounded severely and two other soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb near a U.S. forward operating base on Dec. 12.

“I can’t emphasize enough what Gorham meant to the soldiers of Delta Company, 1st Platoon,” Chappell said.

He said Gorham, from the small Kentucky town of Woodburn, often spoke quietly. That and his accent confused his fellow soldiers when they first introduced themselves in Vicenza. They thought his first name was Brad. Combined with a Budweiser tattoo he had on an arm, it earned him the nickname “Bradweiser.”

Chappell said Gorham tended to keep to himself, but “when you got him going on a story, he would talk for hours.”

Lt. Col. Todd Johnston, the rear detachment commander for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, said Gorham’s firefighter aspirations were well known in the brigade. The son of a firefighter himself, Johnston said the two professions share a lot of similarities. Both have to display special skills on the job, lug around a lot of equipment they depend on to stay alive, routinely show courage and build trust with their comrades.

“I’m sure Pfc. Gorham would have made an excellent firefighter,” Johnston said.

Gorham died at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas while recovering from his wounds.

“We thought that medical science could make him stay in this world,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stevan Horning. “And we were disappointed.”

Horning told those gathered at the service that Gorham had been buried near where he grew up earlier this week. Mourners numbering more than the town’s 300 residents paid their respects.

Among those paying respects in Vicenza was a contingent of retired Alpini soldiers. It was the first time since the unit deployed to Afghanistan in May that they attended a memorial ceremony on base.

Gorham, who joined the Army in November 2006, is survived by his parents, Toney and Shirley Gorham; a sister, Brandie Dixon; a brother, Henry; and three grandparents.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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