Throughout our history, many bright and loyal young citizens have answered the call to serve and made great sacrifices for the greater welfare of our world. While it remains uncomfortable to attempt to consider what our parents, grandparents, and friends have endured on battlefields around the globe in the often-violent struggle for the cause of freedom, it is yet more difficult to consider that same sacrifice being undertaken by our own sons and daughters in this decade.
But the fact remains; in the spirit of service the men and women of this nation, this state, and this community are daily engaged in the grim reality of war. Armed with the bold hope that their actions and sacrifices will make a significant difference in the lives of others, they place themselves in harm's way knowing full well that someday their sacrifice may include their very lives.
Sergeant Bryan McDonough paid that ultimate sacrifice on December 2, 2006 near Falluja, Iraq at age 22. A member of our community, Bryan graduated from Roseville Area High School in 2002. He was a student at St. Cloud Technical College and a member of the National Guard. When asked, he bravely answered the call to serve his country and his fellow man in Iraq. He died a hero in the struggle for justice.
We will be forever in debt to Bryan and the many men and women who in the course of history have given their lives to a greater purpose. His family and this community will not be the same in his absence. But the people whose lives he touched will always be grateful to have been known and loved by this faithful servant, thoughtful friend, and committed citizen.
At Bryan's funeral on December 12th, Father Kevin McDonough gave the following homily in honor of Bryan and his family:
As I have thought of Bryan and his family, the image of Michelangelo's Pieta has come repeatedly to mind, and for two reasons.
First, this extraordinary work of art speaks of the pain all parents know at the time of the death of a child. In the tender love of the Blessed Mother we see an image (and a promise of hope) for Bryan's parents, Renee and Tom. You do not suffer alone!
Second, there is something unique about the statue. Art historians tell us that the crucified body of the Lord Jesus in the sculpture is life size, about six feet tall. But the Blessed Mother – were the stone figure to stand up – is eight feet tall! Why is that?
There is an obvious artistic reason: a merely life-sized Mary would have disappeared behind the sacrificed body of her Son. Michelangelo had to make her big enough to be seen. But I think the artist had another message as well. The Mother of a Son who laid down his life for his friends was, herself, a giant of a person. As the Son of Mary, Jesus learned from his mother the meaning of sacrifice. In a spiritual sense: it takes an eight-foot parent to raise a six-foot child.
This causes me to think about a fact, first, and then a challenge.
The fact is that the sacrifice of Bryan McDonough points to the sort of people who raised him and who have been his friends. Bryan was a young man of good humor. He was that way because he was raised in the security of a close and loving family. He was a loyal friend. He was so because he saw parents who put the needs of their children ahead of their own desires. He had a deep desire for education. He did so because he was encouraged by family and friends to pursue the gifts God gave him. And he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice – of his own life – for the sake of his country. He could make that sacrifice because he had learned day in and day out that life is not about what I acquire but about what I share with others. A truly meaningful life is about laying down one's life for one's friends. He learned that, Tom and Renee, from you.
And now the challenge. We are asking our young people to make tremendous sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places, at home and abroad. But if we are asking such things from our children, what kind of people must we be? It takes eight-foot-tall parents and leaders and friends to ask our children to stand up to their full stature. We must be people of sacrifice – sacrificing for the truth, for the good of our little ones, for the privilege of living in a free country.
When I think of Bryan and his parents, I think of a powerful statue. Michelangelo's Pieta speaks of the tremendous loss that a parent feels, but it also reveals something more. Generous, loving, self-sacrificing children from generous, loving, self-sacrificing parents, and families, and friends. Bryan was worthy of the example he saw at home. Let's ask God to help us be worthy of Bryan.
Today we send our sincere condolences to Bryan's family and friends who must now grieve the loss of a man they loved very much. We thank them for blessing our community with Bryan's presence and offer our support.
I ask the people of our community to please support our troops and their families in any way you can by writing a letter or making a phone call. Or consider the option of supporting First Lady of Minnesota Mary Pawlenty's Military Family Care Initiative by logging on to http://www.firstlady.state.mn.us/initiatives_militaryfamily.html. We owe our men and women of the military a great deal of gratitude for their service. Their sacrifices ensure our freedom, and provide others the hope of a better tomorrow.
For what you have done for this country and the people of Iraq, we humbly thank you Bryan. You will always be remembered as a hero in our community.