By Chris Lewandowski, AW2 Advocate
Retired SGT Brian Radke, AW2 Veteran, put on his Class A uniform and headed down to the Arizona State Capitol on October 29. Radke volunteered to assist with the rededication ceremony of Arizona’s Enduring Freedom Memorial. The memorial is a tribute to the men and women from Arizona who lost their lives serving our country, and Radke was more than willing to be a part of it. Radke lead the audience in the pledge of allegiance and concluded the ceremony by raising the flag atop the memorial. To him, it was important to just be there.
Radke was injured in October, 2005 on a stretch of highway near Camp Victory in Western Baghdad. He was manning the gun turret of his Humvee when a roadside improvised explosive device blew up the vehicle. The force of the explosion caused Radke to have a stroke and his heart stopped twice. It took eight doctors and 12 hours to stabilize Radke’s shrapnel-ridden body so that he could be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
He was badly burned, suffered a fractured jaw, a punctured lung, his carotid artery was severed, his arm was broken in four places, and he lost his right index finger. Over the next 26 months he would endure 71 surgeries. Today Radke still has 5 pieces of shrapnel in his brain. More importantly, he still helps.
Radke says he enjoys participating in events like the one in Arizona. In 2006, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) pinned on his Purple Heart during a ceremony at the nation’s Capitol. Earlier this year, Radke served as a grand marshal for the annual Parade of Bands in his hometown of Hazel Dell, Washington. When asked how he felt about participating in these events and the re-dedication of the Arizona Enduring Freedom Memorial ceremony, he stated simply “I’m humbled.”
Radke lives in San Tan Valley Arizona. He is currently enrolled in the Veterans Upward Bound program at Arizona State University where he plans to earn his degree in education.