Brendon was broken emotionally when he left for Ukraine in September, said his mother Beth.
A former U.S. Army air defense soldier, Brendon’s greatest joy was being a father, his mother told Task & Purpose, but a court had recently awarded primary custody of his two children to their mother. He would only get to see them every other weekend and for two weeks in the summer, Beth said.
“He was heartbroken not being able to spend more time with them,” said Beth. “He wanted 50/50 custody at the minimum.”
Brendon became depressed after the court decision, his mother said. His hair started falling out and he lost more than 20 pounds. Then, he made a decision.
“He said: ‘I can’t save my kids. I can’t help them because of the courts.’ And he said, ‘I’ll go to Ukraine where I can help children there.’”
Her son made clear that he was not going to Ukraine to die. Rather he felt that God was calling on him to assist children.
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On Dec. 3, Brendon was killed in the Kherson region, his mother said. His body has not been recovered.
He is one of nearly 40 U.S. military veterans who have died in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022, according to a list compiled by Task & Purpose. Brendon is one of at least 20 Army veterans killed in Ukraine, including West Point graduate Andrew Webber, former Green Beret Nicholas Maimer, and former National Guardsman David Lee Cote.
The State Department has not publicly said how many Americans have been killed in Ukraine over the past two years, but one Russian military blogger puts the figure at near 50.
Brendon served in the Army as a Patriot Missile operator/maintainer from September 2008 until November 2009, according to his service record, which was provided to Task & Purpose. He left the service at the rank of private and his military awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
He was administratively separated after just over a year in the Army. During his time in the service, he received treatment for substance abuse. Beth told Task & Purpose that his separation was due to stress and leadership issues. He left the Army with a General under Honorable Conditions discharge, which he was in the process of appealing towards an honorable discharge, his mother said.
After arriving in Ukraine, Brendon sent messages home telling his parents that he finally felt that he was serving the purpose for which he was born.
“He was happy there,” Beth said. “We have pictures of him in September when he left, and then we have pictures of him from Signal chats, and he looked so much healthier. He said to his brother the day before they left for mission – he said, ‘Hey bro, if I die on this mission, know that I died happy doing what the Lord called me to do.’”
Breondon ultimately took part in efforts to cross the Dnipro River, which have been very costly for Ukrainian soldiers and marines.
His leader later told his parents that he and his comrades came under Russian fire as they crossed the river in rigid inflatable boats and landed on the other bank.
On the day he was killed, Breondon and his comrades sought shelter in a barn that was hit by Russian artillery, his mother said. He and two others were buried under the rubble.
It is unclear whether Breondon’s remains will be recovered. Many remains of soldiers killed in the war have remained lost under heavy fire, including some Americans.
Like other families of Americans killed in Ukraine, Beth was targeted by a troll, who impersonated her son’s commander and sent her a message claiming that her son was actually still alive.
For a week, she and her husband were unsure what to think until she finally reached her son’s actual commander, who confirmed on Christmas night that Brendon had been killed.
“We went from the 18th to the 25th wondering, ‘Was there a mistake made? Was he really still alive?’” she said. “It was one of those weeks, where you’re like, ‘I don’t believe this,’ but you had a little bit of hope.”
Beth said she and her husband are proud of their son for not falling into the trap of drugs and alcohol when he couldn’t see his children. Instead, he dedicated his life to helping others.
“He picked himself up and he was proud, he was brave,” she said. “That takes a lot of courage for someone who is suffering from a PTSD-type depression from the family courts to pick themselves up and to go be of service to someone else. His two children, they’re 6 and 8, and they can be proud of their dad.”
UPDATE: 02/08/2023: Task & Purpose is identifying Brendon and Beth by their first names only due to Russian intimidation directed at the families of the fallen.
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