On the first of December in 2005 Sergeant First Class Brent Adams was killed in Ramadi, Iraq. Ramadi is situated along the Euphrates River, founded in 1869 by the Ottoman Empire, home to heavy fighting in both the first and second world wars and was a deadly part of the Sunni Triangle in America’s second longest war.
Bill Adams, Brent’s father, has never been a fan of war. “I was in the peace camp during Vietnam. Brent didn’t play with guns as a kid. He was born and bred into a peace loving household.” He said that around age eleven Brent developed a love for military strategy games and morphed his opinion of conflict to become a, “peace through superior firepower kind of person.”
In 1988 Brent had completed four years of college but still hadn’t graduated. He decided to join the Pennsylvania National Guard because of the excellent educational opportunities it provided. Even when Brent got his degree he chose not to become an officer. Brent enjoyed the camaraderie he experienced in the Guard and as SFC he was head of the motor pool. In this role, his talents as a leader and his concern for his men caused him to make the decision that cost him his life.
The only U.S. war that has lasted longer than the Iraq war is the war in Afghanistan. By the end of 2005 these two bloody battle grounds were both well into their third year of fighting and had provided far more resistance than the U.S. government had predicted.
In February of 2003 the rhetoric behind the war from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was that “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” And on March 16, 2003 just days before the U.S. attacked with “Shock and Awe” Rumsfeld’s sentiments were echoed by Vice President Dick Cheney, “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months.”
Bill said that the prolonged war made his son start to reconsider his service in the National Guard. In the spring of 2004 Bill and Brent went on a two week hiking trip through the UK. Brent confided that he was not in favor of the war and did not vote for President Bush. He told his dad that he would go if called up to Iraq. But if he managed to escape that fate he would not reenlist when his next opportunity came.
In addition to being a “citizen soldier,” a husband and father; Brent was the President of his Church Council. Bill said that soon after his deployment Brent — hunkered down in the middle of some of the most bloody insurgent activity of the war — started voicing concerns that he didn’t want to “hate the Iraqi people.” He said, “My son was not a person who hate came naturally to.” As time wore on the enthusiasm left Brent’s voice and “you know, you just grow dead.”
One night Bill was watching TV and the phone rang. It was Brent’s wife with the news of his death. Moments later the doorbell rang; it was the mortuary detail. Brent’s job had been to send his men on convoy trips “outside the wire” but the only man he had to send was tired and had already done a number of missions that week. Brent — not wanting to set someone who was exhausted on such a dangerous task — went himself. Bill explained, “They used an anti-tank weapon on him. There was someone on a roof top waving a white flag. [The army] thinks that was a symbol to fire on them. They hit my son square in the pelvis.”
Bill has become very close with the medics who “helped my son while he died.” But his relationships with the most of the soldiers he meets are what he described as “tepid.” He believes the cause of that is his opposition to the war that killed his son.
Once Bill composed himself following Brent’s death he began carrying a makeshift coffin to peace demonstrations. For five years he has protested while standing by the symbol of what he believes is a “squandered life.” But he goes further in his protests. “I’ve never felt the least little bit of retribution against the insurgents that took Brent’s life. I’ve always held George Bush responsible.”
“And now President Obama has drunk the Kool-Aid,” Bill adds. “He’s continued to expand the Patriot Act and increased the Afghan war… and started a new one in Libya. I knew the minute I read in Obama’s inaugural address that he was not going to look backward that it was over.”
More information about Bill and his struggle to end the U.S. wars is available at the Lancaster Coalition for Peace and Justice Website.