Killed by a bomb in Afghanistan while on patrol
Ashley Caswell had never been a believer in love at first sight. Then she met Army Sgt. Brian L. Walker, a fellow military policeman at Ft. Bragg, N.C., who hailed from Lucerne Valley, Calif.
“He had me at ‘hello,’ ” she said.
Like her, he had blond hair and piercing blue eyes, and it turned out that they had a lot in common. “We could do anything together,” she said. “We loved everything outdoors -- fishing, hunting, camping, hiking.”
On Dec. 11, 2010, they were married in Las Vegas, and one year later they both deployed to Afghanistan. Ashley -- by then Cpl. Ashley Walker -- was on her first tour, Brian his second.
“He treated me so amazing,” Ashley said. “We had a love I never thought was possible, you know?”
On May 8, she accompanied her husband’s body on the long journey home from Bowri Tana, Afghanistan, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Walker, 25, had died that morning when his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device while on patrol in the Khost province not far from the Pakistani border, the Army said. Also killed on the mission was Pfc. Richard L. McNulty III, 22, of Rolla, Mo.
As they hopscotched all night across Asia, Europe and the Atlantic, Ashley, 22, stayed within arm’s reach of Brian’s casket. “It was tough,” she said.
In Lucerne Valley, Brian Walker is remembered for his wit, his smile, his ability to make the most of life. A leader in the Future Farmers of America chapter at Lucerne Valley High School, he raised pigs and cattle as a teenager and aspired to be a veterinarian or farmer, those who knew him said.
“My son loved John Deere tractors,” said his mother, Doris Monville. “I don’t think there’s a toy out there made by them that we don’t have in his collection.”
But after joining the Army in 2007, he decided to make the military his career.
Linda Schlenz got to know Walker well during his time in high school, both as his English teacher and as an advisor who helped his class raise money for a senior trip to England by holding carwashes and the like.
“Brian was the type of young man who made the most of every day,” she said. “He didn’t waste any of his time griping about life. Typically, a teacher tries to inspire their students. With Brian, it was the other way around.”
When it came time for the England trip, Schlenz went along as a chaperone. So did her husband, the Rev. Gary Schlenz, who was Walker’s pastor at the Lucerne Valley Foursquare Church.
“We got along really well because he liked to play jokes, he had a good sense of humor,” Gary Schlenz said. “Our guides were constantly saying, ‘Mind your step, mind your step,’ and that just really tickled him.” Schlenz said that for years after, when they spoke on the phone, “often our parting words would be, ‘Mind your step.’ ”
According to his wife, Walker was recently inducted into the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, an honorary organization for enlisted non-commissioned Army officers. “He was all about the Army,” she said. “Everybody just looked up to him, because he was so smart.... He never made a soldier do something he wouldn’t do himself.”
Walker and his wife had plans for their lives after Afghanistan. They wanted to come home and have a child. He hoped to go to aviation school and become a helicopter pilot.
“It was just such a loss,” Gary Schlenz said. “He obviously had so much to live for, and he was living life well.”
In addition to his wife and mother, Walker is survived by his father, Bert Walker Sr.; a brother, Bert Walker Jr.; two sisters, Brandy Payne and Candy Walker; and grandmothers Caroline Walker and Donna Roberson.