On August 6, 2011, a U.S. helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, killing 30
Among them was 10-year-old Braydon Nichols' father. Nichols wrote an iReport about his dad
Since then, readers haven't stopped commenting on Braydon's iReport
The story made one Army veteran and father recall his close brush with death
Monday marks one year since a Chinook helicopter crashed in Afghanistan and killed 30 American service members, 22 of them Navy SEALs. Many of the SEALs belonged to Team 6, the unit whose members were involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
My father was one of the 30 US Soldiers killed in Afghanistan yesterday with the Seals rescue mission. My father was the pilot of the chinook. I have seen other pictures of victims from this deadly mission and wish you would include a picture of my father. He is the farthest to the left.
Braydon Nichols’ heartbreaking letter urging the world never to forget his father, Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols, sparked thousands of comments and at least 230 iReports filled with love and support for the boy.
Over the past year, readers have continued to post kind notes to Braydon.
“Thought about you and looked at the picture I have and thought to visit this page and letting you know that you were on my mind. Hope you and your family are doing well,” Dennis Stahl from Columbus, Ohio, commented July 12.
“Still on my mind buddy. I hope you and mom are doing OK, thoughts and prayers,” Bob wrote June 25.
“I found myself remembering your story and tribute to your daddy this morning Braydon. I just wanted to let you know that people are and will always be thinking about him,” another reader wrote in June.
Army veteran Shane Farlin told CNN that Braydon’s story made him think about how close he came to losing his life and the chance to watch his son grow up.
The 28-year-old from Michigan was wounded in Iraq in 2004.
He left this post on Braydon’s story:
“I was wounded and holding on weakly, wanting to meet my son. I cry reading this thinking of my Army brothers who didn’t get a chance to come home. Peace to the dead and wounded of this country and their families.”
Farlin and his unit were returning from Fallujah in May 2004, speeding along a highway back to Baghdad. The machine gunner was looking out of their truck and noticed the gutter running alongside them was black, scorched.
Then a roadside bomb exploded.
“It felt like someone hit me in the face with a baseball bat. My head snapped back. It felt like someone was pouring thick olive oil down my face. I could feel the metal on my face and I fell into my partner’s lap screaming,” he said this week.
One eye was hanging out its socket; the other socket was shredded.
“It’s what they always say happens. I was thinking about my unit but I was also thinking about my high school sweetheart. She got pregnant right before I deployed. And I’m screaming but I’m thinking, ‘I never got to see her pregnant, I never got to feel her belly.’”
Farlin knew he was going to have a son.
His face soaked and his buddies screaming, all Farlin could think was: I’m going to have a son. I’m going to be a father.
He started to feel his body go slack. It felt good, this odd sensation of relaxation.
“I was slipping away,” he remembered.
While a medivac rushed to the site, Farlin passed out.
He woke up in a hospital bed in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
It took him a week to regain his sight in one eye. The other was too damaged and he lost it.
Farlin recovered, slowly and agonizingly, and made it back home for the birth of his son. He was working at a base at the time, and wearing his uniform, when he rushed to the hospital to help deliver Shane Farlin II.
That was years ago. Farlin’s boy is 7.
“When I read about Braydon, I just … felt it. Those who are out there, fighting, they have their last moments, or what they believe is going to be their last moments, and they’re thinking about home and their kids. I am so glad I made it.”
Little Shane is Farlin’s “clone,” just as Braydon Nichols was so much like his father.
“My son is off the wall,” Farlin said. “Spiderman one minute, Ironman the next minute. He’s helpful, always wanting to know how he can help Daddy. He wants to be like me. He wants to know what the Army was like.”
Farlin has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and has a traumatic brain injury, he said. Readjusting to life outside the military and his transition to being a college student hasn’t always been easy.
He gets sad. He doesn’t like that he cannot be in the Army any longer because of his injury – he has a glass eye. But Farlin is constantly trying to be positive around his son.
“I know to be careful about what I say in front of him,” he said. “I don’t want my son to see me sad. I am going to keep him from that for as long as I can.”
For the Nichols family, sadness is always there. Some days are better than others.
“We all deal with it differently,” said Monte Nichols, Brian Nichols’ brother. “So many people have reached out and tried to help Braydon over the past year, to let him know that they care and they’re thinking about his dad.”
Braydon is getting good grades and doing as well as any kid could, Monte Nichols added.
A memorial service for those killed in the Chinook crash was held at Arlington National Cemetery in June.
“Everyone who was lost,” Monte Nichols said, “is very much missed. Nobody is forgotten.”