Man organizes memorial for local fallen soldier

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Friends, family and members of the National Guard will be among Friday's invitees to a memorial for Staff Sgt. Brad Skelton. The memorial is being organized by Ross Gartman, who once served with Skelton in Iraq.

Skelton, 40, of Gordonville, was serving in Iraq with the Farmington, Mo.-based Missouri National Guard's 1138th Engineer Company when he died Feb. 6 after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

The public is welcome to attend the memorial, which Gartman described as informal.

"I think it's wonderful what they're doing, remembering Brad," said Charlie Skelton, one of Brad's uncles. He is putting up a yard display about his late nephew.

After the graveside gathering, Gartman hopes to see people head to the nearby Gordonville Grill to get an update on Senate Bill 110, called the Heroes Way Interstate Designation Program, introduced by state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau. Bill 110 would allow interchanges on Interstate 55 to be named in honor those who have died in combat since Sept. 11.

After Skelton returned to Iraq, Gartman's wife Denise made a point of making the absent Gordonville man part of a nightly ritual with their children, Sydney, now 4, Jessie, 8, and Dalton, 12.

"She got down on her knees every night with the kids and included Brad in the prayers," Gartman said. Now, he's teaching them a lesson in faith, he said, that "this is how God uses that moment in time to make something good out of something bad."

He's planning a fundraiser to help pay for the highway signs — estimated to cost $400,000 — should SB 110 pass.

"We've got a rough economy right now. How are we going to pay for 200 signs?" he said.

One of Brad's cousins, Steve Skelton, said the signs would be "a wonderful tribute to those folks who paid the ultimate sacrifice."

He said Friday's memorial is an odd replay of last year's post-ice storm devastation. Some of his relatives, including Brad Skelton's sister, were affected by last week's ice storm.

The Brad Skelton memorial is at 4 p.m. Friday at Christ Lutheran Cemetery, 248 Albert Lane in Gordonville, just beyond the Gordonville Fire Department; Gordonville Grill is at 829 Route Z.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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