26, of Newport and Atkinson, Maine; assigned to 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, Ansbach-Katterbach, Germany; died May 28, 2012 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his AH-64 Apache helicopter was shot down from enemy fire. Also killed was Army Chief Warrant Officer Five John C. Pratt.
To honor CPT John R. Brainard III, his godparents, Mrs. Nancy White and Mr. Whitey White talk about the stone they donated to TSP to uniquely represent Jay.
This smooth, brown, two toned stone was actually hand selected by Jay when he was 11 y/o. He found it in a cold stream flowing into Moxie pond in Caratunk, ME. Jay loved canoeing, swimming and camping on an island on Moxie. The three of us spent more than one Fourth of July on the island celebrating our Nations’ Independence. We brought this stone home and placed it on a stump in our flower garden where it resided until we decided to share it with TSP supporters who would carry it in Honor and Remembrance of our beloved Jay.
Watch these videos to learn why this stone is significant and what it says about CPT John R. Brainard III.
Also to honor CPT John R. Brainard III, his wife, Ms. Emily Brainard also donated a stone to honor her husband. Here is what Emily wrote —
My name is Emily Brainard and I am donating this stone to The Summit
Project in memory of my late husband, CPT Jay Brainard. I found this
stone in Bavaria, Germany, the last place Jay called “home” before he
deployed to Afghanistan on April 30, 2012, and was killed in action on
May 28, 2012. I still live and work here in Germany and wanted a way
to contribute to The Summit Project from far away. I am extremely
grateful for the volunteer who will eventually carry the stone to the
top of Mount Katahdin, because that was one of Jay’s favorite places
in Maine. Jay was born and raised in Maine and loved the outdoors.
Hiking was one of his favorite things, and he climbed Mount Katahdin
many times. Jay took me on our first hiking trip there together in
2006. I remember when he took me across Knife’s Edge, I was afraid of
heights and wanted to quit at one particularly narrow point with a
sheer drop off on either side. He said something along the lines of,
“you can do this right now, or you can sit there and wait until a
helicopter comes to pick you up. But you’ve got this.” And that was
Jay – always pushing people out of their comfort zone, while believing
in them and helping them along the way.
Jay and I met on September 4, 2005. I was 18 and he was 20. We met at
a bowling alley, where we were both hanging out with friends, and
instantly clicked. We dated throughout college and got married on
December 22, 2008, a few weeks before he started flight school at Fort
Rucker, Alabama. Jay loved serving in the Army, being a soldier,
leading other soldiers, and flying helicopters. He overcame a lot of
personal and family struggles to reach his goals and become an Army
officer and Apache helicopter pilot. He told me he felt that his
purpose on this earth was to serve his country and help other people.
He did just that, and he did it well. Jay worked hard but he also
played hard too. He enjoyed biking, camping, running, traveling, and
any time he could spend outside. He could be very serious at times,
but was really a big goof ball at heart. He loved playing pranks on
his friends and I. He was also one of the most dedicated and driven
people I’ve ever known – if Jay set his mind to something, he was
going to finish it.
I am truly thankful for the over six and a half years Jay and I shared
together. He was my best friend and helped make me the person I am
today. He taught me to never give up, to always go after my dreams, to
be happy and appreciate the little things in life, and to keep on
living and do the best I can each and every day. Jay, you are loved,
missed, and never forgotten!
These pictures were taken over the years between Emily and John. She wrote —
Our last military ball, his promotion ceremony to Captain, and the skydiving trip he took me on right before he deployed. The one of him in front of the helicopter was taken in Afghanistan, during his deployment, shortly before he was KIA. The one of us on top of the mountain and all bundled up was taken in 2006, when we hiked Mount Katahdin together. The others are of me with the stone, and the stone with his flag, the one that he came home with from Afghanistan and that draped his coffin for his funeral.
Speaking of the stone — Here is why Emily chose that stone and what it says about Jay. Emily wrote —
I chose that particular rock because it was the only decent sized one I could find in this area. I live in the middle of farming community Bavaria, and so most of the medium/big sized rocks have been cleared away from the fields. WHERE I found it however is what makes it special. Throughout the fields, there are lots of farmers trails, which connect in between all the little towns around here. In addition to the trails being useful for the famers, they are also wonderful walking/biking/running trails. I use them all the time to workout on now, but I didn’t used to. Jay was always the runner of the family, and I avoided running like the plague! After Jay was killed in action, I was in a bad place — deep in grief, not eating, not sleeping, just barely functioning. After a few months, I decided I needed to find a way to pull myself out of this funk and to make meaning out of my life again. I remembered how much Jay enjoyed running, and how it helped him relax, so I figured I’d give it a try. I had also never ran more than 3 or 4 miles in my life, so I figured it would be a challenge. Maybe I could take on something even harder than grieving. So I started running. I found out it wasn’t as difficult as losing Jay, but it sure was a challenge! I signed up for the Paris Half Marathon at a friend’s suggestion, and trained for it in about 5 months. I went from “not a runner” to a half marathoner. I found the organization Wear Blue: Run to Remember, and starting using running as a memorial to Jay’s memory and a way to get my life back to a new kind of normal. Running was the first thing that made me feel happy again after losing Jay, and helped me open up my heart to finding so much happiness since. I did (and still do) most of my running and training on these local trails, where I found this rock. These trails are where I do a lot of thinking, a lot of grief work, and a lot of just relaxing, depending on whatever I need that day, and so that’s why I went out there when I was looking for the right stone to donate to TSP. I found this one large rock alongside one trail — after hunting around and only finding tiny rocks and pebbles for so long — so I knew it was the right one. Like I said, Germany was also Jay’s last “home” before he deployed, so I think it’s fitting he has rocks from Maine (his original home) and Germany. I hope that whoever carries the rock can sense the memories and the healing that are part of Jay’s and my story. He would be so happy to know that this project is going on, because he loved hiking!