Reservist Finally Gets His Fighting Chance
Walter Brady wanted to fight for his country. The 49-year-old Army reservist was willing, but his flesh, it seemed, was weak.
Brady had lost 51 pounds, trained with guys half his age and readied himself for battle. But when Transportation Company 1498 was sent to the war in Iraq last May, he was left behind -- foiled at the last minute by a bad knee.
Brady’s efforts to serve were chronicled in The Times last September. His journey, however, did not end then. Brady is now in the Middle East, where he rejoined Transportation Company 1498.
“It’s about doing my part,” Brady said by phone this week from Kuwait. “It’s about me coming here and doing my part.”
Brady rejoined his company two months ago and has been stationed in Kuwait. He works as a driver, heading north into Iraqi towns on various missions.
Back home in Palmdale, Brady is a husband, father and grandfather who drives an MTA bus for a living. He also belongs to a group of men who pride themselves in keeping alive the memory and contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black units founded in 1866 who played a key role in the expansion westward.
The men appear in parades wearing the Buffalo Soldier uniform. They speak at schools, ride in parades and serve as honor guards at veterans’ funerals. Their commitment to the nation, however, is more than a reenactment. It is in part what drove Brady, who has since turned 50, to the war zone.
“I was able to get myself together and do the extensive therapy,” Brady said in a voicemail the day before his departure. “And I got a blessing, so I’m on my way. Pray for me that I make it back safe.”
His presence in the war zone has left a huge absence in the Palmdale home he shares with his wife, Juanita, and their five children -- one son and the four grandchildren they recently adopted.
“In the beginning ... we didn’t hear from him, we didn’t know what was going on,” Juanita said. “Every day you hear about all those soldiers getting killed.... He realizes it was a sacrifice he made as far as his family. It left me with a big responsibility.”
The road to Kuwait was a long one for the Alabama native. Brady, who enlisted in the Army as a youngster, served during the Vietnam era but did not see combat, and he left the military in 1977. Twenty-five years later, he tried to enlist in the reserves and was rejected -- twice. Then came Sept. 11, which only heightened his resolve to serve. He kept trying and eventually passed the weight and body-fat requirements and fitness tests.
On Feb. 14, 2003, Brady headed for Camp Roberts, near Paso Robles, where he spent months training for duty in Iraq. But then he injured his knee jumping into a foxhole. In May, when his unit headed out, he was kept back.
On several occasions, Brady has had an opportunity to go home, and some would say every reason. He stayed in the reserves, doing what was necessary for him to join the guys he trained with -- to everyone’s surprise.
“Everybody was just as shocked as I was,” Brady said in the phone call from Kuwait.
The months in battle have been tough on his buddies, and it took time for Brady and them to reconnect as friends and comrades. Brady said it was important that they know he “didn’t abandon them.”
Now, like the other men, he faces danger from mortar fire, stray bullets, improvised explosives. Since being in Iraq, he says, he has recommitted to the Lord.
His wife would rather have him home, but she supports the patriotic spirit that pushed him to go. “Sometimes you have those things you really have to do,” she said. “And he had to do it.”