The Pryor Times


May 15, 2014

Kyle Brinlee: He was ours

PRYOR, OK — “This is to say we remember. Not that remembering saves us. Not that remembering brings anything usable back.”

                                                                                           Miller Williams


The memory is still fresh.

The entire Times staff was strategically placed to cover the funeral of Sgt. Kyle Brinlee.

He was ours. The first Oklahoma soldier to be killed in Iraq.

Ten years later, soldiers are still being killed in Iraq, although we are told the war is over.

People came to Pryor to pay their respects to the young soldier. The service was held in the high school gym. It was full.

I was at the cemetery. It was warm and sunny.

This was a time before everyone had a cell phone and the crowd at the graveside became so large, I thought the service must be over. It wasn’t. Mourners who could not squeeze into the gym, or couldn’t find a parking place elsewhere, were gathering at the graveside to pay their respects.

I was at the edge of the tent where they would take Kyle from the hearse. There were several photographers at the cemetery from larger papers. They had to stay back. The funeral directors let me stay close. I think I know why. Kyle was ours. He was from Pryor and Pryor was his paper.

Turns out my photo won an award. The flag-draped casket from the back just after it was unloaded, framed by the pallbearers. The whole story in one shot.

We could never have known that day - the war would go on for 10 more years and even now, soldiers are still there.

The unselfish service of a young man from a small Oklahoma town can never be repaid. He gave his life and we can’t give it back to him.

How proud we were, and still are, of the many soldiers from Oklahoma. They have always answered the call in any war, evidenced by the fact that so many veterans live here.

Last Saturday, on the 10-year anniversary of Kyle’s death, a monument was unveiled in the Mayes County Courthouse. Again, people came to pay their respects. They haven’t forgotten.

Go by and see the statue. It’s powerful. We need to remember as Rep. Ben Sherrer said, “all these things we have are not free.”

Someone paid the price. Kyle Brinlee was first from Oklahoma.

This is to say we remember.

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