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Military

By Army SSgt. John Zumer

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Soldier Honors Father With Continued Service
(March 20, 2011)

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian C. Reddington, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force duke and native of San Antonio, Texas, stands outside the TF Duke tactical operations center on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, March 12, 2011. Photo by Army SSgt. John Zumer
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian C. Reddington, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force duke and native of San Antonio, Texas, stands outside the TF Duke tactical operations center on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, March 12, 2011. Photo by U.S. Army SSgt. John Zumer
 KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (March 13, 2011) – Remember the closing scene from “Field of Dreams,” where the Kevin Costner-character was able to enjoy a game of catch with his father? It's a ritual enjoyed by countless fathers and sons over the years, fondly looked back upon not only as a game but also a bonding experience. For U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian C. Reddington, it will likely remain a joyful and precious memory, but one forever tinged with sadness.

Reddington, an air traffic controller assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke and a native of San Antonio, Texas. , is currently on his second deployment. Like many soldiers, he continued the legacy of military service inherited from other family members. For Reddington, that inspiration came from his stepfather, John Stephens, whom Reddington considers his father, having helped to raise him and his younger siblings from the time Reddington was six years old.

Stephens, a U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class and combat medic, was killed in action, March 15, 2007 in Tikrit, Iraq, when a shaped charge was thrown at his convoy travelling back to Forward Operating Base Speicher. A veteran with 21 years of service, he was on his second deployment, and assigned to HHC, 1-16th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 1st ID. 
Reddington was stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala., when he heard the sad news.
“You can never prepare yourself for something like that. It happens to other people,” he said.

The last time he saw his father was two months before Stephens deployed from Fort Riley, Kan. Despite the loss of a father who had been so influential in raising him, Reddington chooses to remember the many timeless memories and lessons passed along. Through them all, the one constant was always the old American Pastime.

“Baseball. That's what we did,” said Reddington. “He was always my coach up until my junior year.”

Reddington smiled as he remembered one of his baseball games, when as a 14-year old he was pitching for a team coached by his father. After being hit hard early by the opposition, his father/coach was on the verge of taking him out, something
 Brian C. Reddington, at the age 8, plays Army with his step-father, Sgt. John Stephens, at their home in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in 1989. Reddington, now a Staff Sgt. in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, said his step-father, who was killed in action in Tikrit, Iraq in 2007, was his inspiration to join the military. Courtesy Photo
Brian C. Reddington, at the age 8, plays Army with his step-father, Sgt. John Stephens, at their home in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in 1989. Reddington, now a Staff Sgt. in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, said his step-father, who was killed in action in Tikrit, Iraq in 2007, was his inspiration to join the military. Courtesy Photo
undoubtedly hard to stomach for both parties involved.

“Just give me one more inning,” Reddington recalls saying, wanting one last chance to work his way out of trouble by himself.

His father ultimately left him in, Reddington pitched his way out of the jam, and the game ended happily. But like many aspects of life touched by baseball, the greatest lessons had nothing to do with the final score or individual statistics.

According to Reddington, it was “the first time in our relationship that he really trusted me,” noting that it was perhaps that moment when a father finally saw a son's confidence and abilities able to overcome the odds against him.

His father and mother had married shortly before Reddington turned six. A younger brother and sister completed the family growing up, and while his father's military service was something he looked up to, it was never a foregone conclusion that he would join. Once decided, however, the choice was clear.

“When I decided to join, it made the Army the only option,” he said.

With nine years of service now under his belt, Reddington is leaning toward making the Army a career. It will undoubtedly be talked about at length with his wife Tina, as his reenlistment decision after his father died was.

“It was an eye-opener to what could really happen. Ultimately it was continuing what he started. I reenlisted because I wanted to follow through,” said Reddington.

With a mid-tour leave slated for June, Reddington is looking forward to seeing his wife and their three children; 6-year old Grace, 5-year old Caleb and infant Jacob, born on Mar. 9. The children will never get the chance to meet their grandfather, but it doesn't mean his legacy won't be passed on. After all, it stands to reason the same timeless advice he heard from his dad, that remains with him to this day, is something Reddington looks forward to sharing with his own children.

“The thing I carry with me from what he said is, ‘No matter what you're doing, do it to the best of your ability.'”

Four years have passed now since his father's death in Iraq. There will be no more opportunities for Reddington to enjoy another game of catch with his dad, no future chances for a grandfather to see a grandchild allowed to stay in the game. A grandchild who, like his father before him, was given his defining opportunity to work his way out of difficulty, relying upon the skills, patience and knowledge that can only be passed along by a loving parent.

As to what he would like his own children to remember about their grandfather, Reddington paused a moment, finally paying the ultimate compliment.

“He was a great father.”
By Army SSgt. John Zumer
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
Copyright 2011

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