Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

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Mr. Speaker, ``To be born free is an accident, to live free is a privilege, and to die free is a responsibility.'' Powerful words spoken by Brigadier General James Sehorn that are embedded into the minds of our valiant soldiers protecting nations from a cowardly enemy that burrows beneath the Iraqi desert sands, those individuals that seek to annihilate our freedoms that all people should have.

The American soldier believes in freedom more than any other individual on Earth because they witness the inhumanity of tyranny. They see it in the fierce trenches of battle. Our soldiers secure life and liberty, and they give it to those folks in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Edward Charles Reynolds, Jr. was one of these soldiers. He was an 8-year Army veteran. Staff Sergeant Reynolds had been stationed among the terrorist Iraqi insurgents, fighting against them to ensure a free nation of Iraq.

He is a native of Port Arthur, Texas, and he was a 1997 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, where he was a star tight-end and middle linebacker on the football team. As a Texan, Staff Sergeant Reynolds spent fall football seasons cheering for one of the greatest teams in college football, the University of Texas Longhorns. Those who knew him knew a man who took care of others, whether it be his family, his friends, or his country. Staff Sergeant Reynolds was their protector.

Family was the most important thing to Staff Sergeant Reynolds. He was a devoted father to his children, two daughters and a son. He was dedicated to his fiancee. He was the guardian of his older sister. Friends knew him as the man that kept them out of trouble, pushing them to succeed in life. And his country knew him as a defender of our freedoms.

In December 2005, Staff Sergeant Reynolds was deployed to Iraq, worlds away, but he remained a constant presence in the life of his family and all of his friends. He sent out cards and letters, constantly reminding his fiancee of their New Year's Eve wedding date. During the next 10 months, assigned to the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Staff Sergeant Reynolds dodged bullets, IEDs, and Iraqi outlaws throughout the Baghdad desert.

But on September 26, less than 2 months from coming home to Texas, Staff Sergeant Reynolds and a fellow soldier were crossing a Baghdad bridge in a military convoy when that bridge collapsed, plunging their vehicle underwater, trapping both soldiers inside. 27-year-old Staff Sergeant Reynolds and his colleague were killed in action, becoming victims in the struggle for Iraqi freedom.

A decorated soldier, Staff Sergeant Reynolds was the recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge, the Kosovo Campaign Medal. He was also awarded the Iraqi Combat Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Bronze Star. He was a lifelong member of the Borden Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. And like his mother and father, Staff Sergeant Reynolds had a devout faith in his Almighty God, believing that everything he was given was a gift by Him.

On October 7, the Borden Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, and the Reverend Airon Reynolds, Jr., gave this brave soldier a hero's memorial and homecoming. Family and friends were not the only ones who memorialized and honored Staff Sergeant Reynolds. The Patriot Guard Riders and the Southeast Texas Veterans Service thanked him for his valor. More than 200 Patriot Guard Riders, with flags of tribute raised, stood in honor of Staff Sergeant Reynolds, the son of Texas, an American soldier, as he reached his eternal restin