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Sgt. Kyle Brinlee

August 11, 2012

This week’s American Hero is Sgt. Kyle Brinlee of Pryor, Oklahoma.

Kyle served with the 120th Battalion Combat Heavy Engineers of the Oklahoma Army National Guard. He was also the first soldier from the unit to give his life in the war. He was killed in action on May 11, 2004.

At his funeral on May 19, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry spoke:

“I cannot identify a higher standard of public service than that in which Kyle engaged. He gave his life for all Oklahomans and Americans so we can enjoy our freedom,” Henry said. “I hope we never forget the sacrifice.”

The following information was provided by the Cherokee Phoenix:

Brinlee was killed when an explosive struck the vehicle in which he was riding. His death was the first combat-related death for the Oklahoma National Guard since the Korean War.

After his death, Brinlee was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which were presented to his family.

Brinlee joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 2001, one month shy of his graduation from Pryor High School. Though Brinlee went by his stepfather’s last name, he was referred to several times at his funeral service as Brinlee Showler, in recognition of his father Robert’s surname. His mother, Tracy, died last September.

He was deployed to Iraq in February as a member of the 120th Combat Engineer Battalion and was assigned as a carpenter and masonry specialist. The battalion is made up of soldiers from Tahlequah, Stilwell, Okmulgee, Pryor, Wagoner, Muskogee, Okemah, Eufaula and Henryetta and left to prepare for deployment to Iraq last December. They are scheduled to be away from their homes for an estimated 18 months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Originally from Adair, Okla., Brinlee was remembered as a young man who love motorcycles and worked with his stepfather in carpentry. Friends said he was loyal, a great friend and a great man who served his country as well as his family, and who strived to make a difference.

At his funeral, a video screen flashed photographs of Brinlee, providing snapshots of the young soldier’s short life. The video included shots of a smiling boy with a birthday cake, a teenager holding a baseball and football, a young man at the onset of adulthood in his graduation cap and gown, and a soldier in full military uniform.

Flags hung at half-staff throughout Pryor and lined area streets from the high school to the cemetery. Pryor residents, including about 80 Thunderbird Youth Academy students in uniform, watched the funeral procession pass.

At the cemetery, seven soldiers each fired three shots, two buglers blew Taps and the American flag that had draped Brinlee’s casket was folded into a tight triangle.

Today, Kyle lies in rest at Adair Cemetery in Adair, Oklahoma. He is remembered by his hometown as one of their sons. A son who gave his life for the freedom of those he served and those he protected. We remember him as an American Hero.

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