Sunday, August 14, 2011

Loss of a soldier touches all of us

News that a Bradenton native had just been killed in Afghanistan came via email early Friday. Publisher Bob Turner forwarded me the email, received from someone he didn't even know. It read, chillingly direct:

My nephew, Patrick Lay, was killed in action today in Afghanistan. Born and raised in Bradenton. Thank you for your time.

With little else to work from, reporter Lee Williams started some furious digging. He quickly tracked down -- via Facebook -- that it was painfully true.

As Williams and photographer Grant Jefferies began reaching out to the family, we were humbled by their response. Spc. 4 Lay's mom, Stefenie Hernandez, his fiancee Joann Steiff, his sister Nikki and countless other relatives and friends opened their door and their hearts to us -- out of deep respect, pain, loss and love of their lost soldier.

Grant's photo of Patrick's mom, above, lost in thought outside her home, speaks that proverbial thousands of words. We have been "lucky" in Manatee County for the past several years, as the war hasn't taken a direct hit in claiming the life of one of our own. This was a painful reminder of how much so many have given.

And it stirred fears and prayers in all who were touched by the news. We found an article and photos by Stars and Stripes, and wanted to share this one with our readers. The photo by Laura Rauch/Stars and Stripes shows Spc. Lay sitting on a vehicle as the sun sets over Combat Outpost Nalgham, Afghanistan on May 21. Editors there gave us permission to publish, in exchange for two copies of the Herald with the photograph. In sending Herald photographer Tiffany Tompkins-Condie the OK, administrator Jen Stepp wrote:
You’re so very welcome. As I was processing your request I just became so very sad that here we have a soldier doing his duty and his photo appearing in the paper just a couple months ago to him having been killed today. My most sincere condolences go out to his family and those he served with.

And when I sent Williams' story and Jefferies' photographs to McClatchy-Tribune News Services for national publication, the Washington editor replied:
He reminds me of my best friend’s nephew who's going to Afghanistan in January. I hope I don’t read anything like this about him.

Say a prayer for all our troops to return home, safe and alive.


Anonymous said...

I just found out that he lived in my neighborhood

My condolences to all

Rainbows in St. Armands said...

Please Please keep us up to date for his arrival via your email system so that we can go and Hold American Flags along the route in Bradenton.
Thank you,

Anonymous said...

What these stories all seem to forget is there is another part of Patricks family being pushed out of the picture. He has a wonderful father, step mother and siblings who have been forgotten by everyone but the Army, but God knows and so does Patrick....his Dad was/is a great Dad.

Anonymous said...

As a proud parent of a Marine, my heart goes out to the family. The support from the community waving the flags may offer some confort to the family.

I'm also proud and thankful for
all the men & women who have made such a huge committment for our country.

Jan Hatfield