Our Three Sons

For one of three Bonnells, the worry is about a fourth -- Mom

OVER THERE - Baghdad

April 23, 2003|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Sgt. 1st Class Brad Bonnell isn't worried about his two brothers in Iraq.

His brother Bryon is a major and, because he's an aide to the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division, stays a safe distance from the action. His oldest brother, Brett, is also a major; he flies helicopters, but Brad doesn't think he has done so in this war theater.

It's their mother Brad worries about most.

"She's never been in a conflict with all three sons," he said one afternoon last week, while sitting on the back of a Humvee in Baghdad. He doesn't worry about their dad, because he fought in Vietnam.

Brad, a platoon sergeant in the 3rd battalion of the 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, understands that he is and has been the closest of the three Bonnell boys to danger. And not just in this war, either.

He has been on drug missions in Mexico and Peru, gone to Haiti and Honduras, and taken part in operations he can't talk about. As a sniper, he has three confirmed kills.

After eight years in an elite Ranger battalion, he joined the 101st because it's a family tradition. All three brothers and their dad have served in the 101st.

Brad hasn't told his parents about the time his troops stumbled upon a cache of weapons - 12 rockets, 29 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, 14,000 rounds of ammunition - buried in a farmer's yard. He hasn't told them that in every town his unit has entered, someone has taken "potshots" at them. He hasn't described the Iraqi Frog missile that landed near his company at an airfield near Najaf - the closest, he says, he has come to being killed.

Telling war stories would only make them worry. And with three sons in Iraq, his mother already worries enough.

Brad was scheduled to leave Baghdad last week, bound for the northern city of Mosul, where skirmishes involving U.S. forces on Monday left one soldier wounded.

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