This week, a focus on some of the people who live in our neighborhood of Ardmore. The old, quit-your-whining-and-be-grateful-for-what-you-have blog.
The day after the annual Ardmore Memorial Day Parade last month, I was trolling through Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch looking for . Specifically for any photos of The Friends of Linwood Park contingent, so I could share it on the Linwood Facebook page.
Instead, I came across a beautiful photo of a family sitting on their porch watching the parade. The photo included three generations of the Black family, all of whom live under one roof in Ardmore. The photo struck me because the Blacks have a son/grandson/brother serving in Afghanistan right now, Corporal Brandon P. Mader, and it was Memorial Day. And sometimes we forget what that is all about.
I emailed Amy Black, Brandon’s mom, and told her what a great picture I thought it was. I first met Amy as a parent at Penn Valley Elementary almost 11 years ago now, as she and I have sons the same age. Amy was also one of the first people to offer me some plants from her garden to start a garden at Penn Valley. Now, I see her walking her giant dog across Linwood Park. Or when I am toiling away off-hours in the garden at Penn Valley, Amy, who works at Penn Valley, always pops out to check on me to see if I need anything.
So later that day when I saw her at the school, I asked if I could write about “The Story Behind the Picture” and her family, in particular Brandon.
So, the following is that story mostly in Amy’s words:
Brandon’s full name is Brandon P. Mader and he is serving in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. He is in the Army in the 4th Infantry Division with a home base at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Brandon enlisted in 2008 and started his Basic Training in June of 2009. He finished Basic Training in September of 2009, had two weeks off, then reported to his duty station. After Brandon’s arrival there, he started combat training. He went to Afghanistan for his first tour Thanksgiving of 2009 and made it back to US soil in May of 2010. He is back in Afghanistan now.
“Brandon usually communicates with us through Facebook and phone calls. It is easier to get on the computer and chat. He checks in on lacrosse games, school grades and family matters. Brandon gives us snippets of what he encounters in a day. Sometimes it is about patrols, sometimes it is about the guys just being guys.
Hopefully Brandon will be stateside in late November. They go through debriefing, testing and counseling. When they are done and all units are in they go on what is called block leave. This can take 2-3 weeks. So we are hoping to see him at Christmas time.
After his leave he will return to his Duty Station. Brandon is stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
From there I'm not sure if he will pursue a career in the Army or look to move into the civilian world.”
Brandon has four siblings – Connor, 16; Paddy (not in the picture), 15; Emma, 14; and Quinn, 10. Also in the photo are Amy and Chris, and Brandon’s grandparents Chris Sr. and Wendy.
Amy explained that three entire sports teams that her other kids play for have 4th Infantry Division decals on their team helmets. As Brandon’s brother Paddy wrote for Philly Lacrosse:
Brandon graduated from Lower Merion High School in 2007. At LM he played lacrosse all four years. He played junior varsity his freshman year and varsity in his sophomore, junior and senior year. During his junior and senior year he was named one of the team’s captains.
After high school, Brandon went on to college to play D-3 lacrosse at Immaculata University. He started as a freshman and was also a team captain. After his freshman year ended, he felt as if something was missing. That summer he announced that he was going to join the Army, a dream he had since he was little.
So, when you feel the need to whine about things, just stop yourself, and think about Brandon or the Blacks or other people who are doing way harder things than we are. Not a pity party. Just put life in perspective, do what good you can to change the bad stuff, support the good stuff, and quit yer’ whinin’ and be grateful for what you have. And remember to say thank you to those who have served.