The military has honored one of our fallen Oklahoma heroes for making the ultimate sacrifice.
The U.S. Army National Guard presented the Gold Star Medal on Thursday to Sgt. Kyle Brinlee’s father.
“Our purpose here today is to celebrate his life and honor him for paying the ultimate price for our freedom,” a speaker said as taps played during the ceremony.
Standing in Brinlee's place, Robert Showler accepts the Gold Star in his son's honor.
“He was the real deal; he was a hero,” Showler said. “I think about him all the time. A lot of people do. He was really special, he really was. He was a great kid. Unbelievable kid.
Oklahoma's Fallen Heroes
Kyle joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2001 after graduating from Pryor High School.
“When his unit got activated, he realized he had a duty to do and didn't really want to go, but he felt he needed to go do his job... and he did,” Showler said.
Kyle was deployed to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
Staff Sgt. Shane Scullaw was the company administrator.
“Always a jokester, your typical 21 year old,” Scullaw said. “He was always the life of the party and just full of life.”
On May 11, 2004, the laughter stopped when a roadside bomb hit Brinlee's vehicle during a resupply mission.
At the time of the attack, Brinlee was the first Oklahoma Guardsman to be killed in war since the Korean War.
“Kyle inspired a lot of people,” Showler said. “And Kyle lives on in my heart, and I know in the hearts of a lot of other people.”
The Gold Star Medal is one way for Kyle's legacy to live on. But there's also nephews and nieces, one of them named Kylie after the uncle she never met.
“It's important that this generation of kids, they understand the sacrifices that these soldiers made,” Showler said.
It is a sacrifice that leaves soldiers, like Kyle, frozen in time, forever 21and never forgotten.
“I've always been proud of Kyle, even before I lost him,” Showler said. “I'm overwhelmed. It's beyond proud now. I'm just overwhelmed. I love him. I'll always love him and I'll always miss him.”
Showler, who is a teacher, plans to take the medal to his classroom this week. He says he wants his students to know about the sacrifices men and women in the military make every day.
After that, he said it will be proudly displayed in the family home.
Brinlee's sister was also awarded a Gold Star Medal a few years ago.