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Story ID:1789
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Balad Iraq
Person:Ethan Biggers
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By Fred Wickert

The oldest or first-born of my oldest sister, Helen is a girl named Rose. When Rose became an adult, she too became a mother Ė of six children. The first, a boy named Reg. The second a girl named Roxanne, followed by four boys, Rick, John, Mark and Paul. Her husband Ron passed away at a very early age, leaving her to raise six children alone.

Ron Cornelius, husband of Rose, was in the Army during the Vietnam War for one term, and then joined the National Guard. He served in the National Guard until his untimely death.

The oldest son, Reg, served in the Army for eight years. He was in the Cavalry and was in Iraq for the first war, called Desert Storm. When Reg came home he was upset. He told Rose they had come out to soon and that we will have to go back. He was upset because he had all of those younger brothers and feared they will be the ones who will have to go back. Those were prophetic words.

The next son, Rick has been in the army now for about ten years. He has served in Iraq twice. The next in line is John. John had dreamed of being in the Navy, but it was not to be. Asthma made him unacceptable to the military, so he is now studying engineering in the university.

Then comes the two youngest. Mark the fourth son and Paul, the fifth son. Mark and Paul are both in the army. Both have served in Iraq. Mark came home from Iraq in September of 2006, and Paul returned in November of 2006. Mark expects to go to Afghanistan sometime next year and Paul expects to go back to Iraq.

Rose tries to keep all of the family posted on what is going on with her family. On March 17, 2006 Rose advised the family of the following sent to her by Mark from Iraq on March 7, 2006:

Rose first advised the following: ďI received an e-mail from Mark recently, and decided to share it. Iíll provide a short list of acronyms first (I called Rick for some help):

FOB Ė forward operating base
RTO Ė radio transmitter operator
TCP Ė donít know the words, but itís a small observation post, in a remote area

Itís not an acronym, but a commo blackout means no communications are allowed; this happens every time someone is injured or killed, until after the family is notified. I understand it, but every time I donít hear, I worry.Ē

(Markís e-mail)

Sorry I havenít talked to any of you in a while. I was out at a TCP for about five days, and when I got back to the FOB I had time to shower and repack before we left again to do something else. We were based out of a house, and we were getting sniper fire for a couple of days. A couple of hours before we left, that SOB actually hit someone. (It wasnít a good aim, it ricocheted.) So, the company commanders RTO got hit in the head. The good news is the medic that was there actually got him breathing by the time they MEDIVACed him, and they got him to Balad within about twenty-five minutes and they stabilized him and moved him to Germany within a couple of hours of that. The news weíve heard is that it didnít really go through much of his brain, itís mostly his cranium thatís damaged. The word weíve gotten is that his family is in Germany with him, now, but they expect him to recover. They just donít know how much brain damage to expect. Anyway, right after that happened, we were on a commo blackout, so I couldnít call or e-mail anyway.

However, what happened right after that was the funnest two hours of this deployment. All the houses in the general area the sniper fire was coming from, which was about half the town (about half the size of Owego), we cleared. This guy couldnít aim very well, but he knew well enough to police up his brass.

Anyway, Iíve been away from phones/internet for a while and once I was back we were on a commo blackout. In not much longer though, Iíll be going to the JS Bridge, where I wonít be able to talk much either until next month, or not much sooner.

After returning home, Mark described the incident. The soldier that got hit was Ethan Biggers, the Company Commanders Radio Transmitter Operator (RTO). Mark was on the third floor roof and began coming down the stairs to the second floor roof. Ethan Biggers took a break away from the radio and climbed up on to a balcony and sat under the stairway Mark was coming down, to cool off some.

Mark heard the sniper fire. He heard the bullet hit the wall of the house and ricochet off the house and then off the stairs. The bullet hit Ethan, BIGE as his buddies called him. It entered above the left ear, went through his head and exited above the right ear. He was casualty number twenty for his outfit.

Ethan was evacuated out by helicopter. What happened after that, his buddies only knew from hearsay and rumors. The chopper flew him to Balad where two brain surgeons looked at him and shook their heads. One of the surgeons stated that when he worked in a civilian hospital in America, he never scheduled surgery for a wound like that. In Iraq, he and the other surgeon had made a pact. They knew they were going to see a lot of bad wounds, but they refused to play God. They agreed that no matter how severe a wound, they were going to give it their best. They did that with Ethan.

They removed a part of his skull on both sides. He was stabilized, kept in a coma and flown to Germany. From Germany, his family was notified. It happens that Ethan had a twin brother, Matt, who was stationed in Germany at the time, in reserve to go to Iraq if needed.

Ethan was flown to Maryland and placed in Walter Reed Army Hospital. His sister Liza put her life on hold to be with him. His father, Rand Biggers was a phyisicist at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He informed the Air Force that he was not going to be available for as long as it might take.

Ethan and his fiancť, Britni, had taken a trip together, not long before he was due to go to Iraq. They were going to get married, but his father, Rand talked them out of it, urging them to wait until he came back from Iraq and have a regular wedding where all families and friends could attend. They decided to take the advice.

Two days after arriving in Iraq, Britni reached Ethan by phone and informed him she was pregnant. Two months later she told him it was going to be a boy. Another soldier named Benjamin , Ethan had greatly respected and admired had been killed in action and Ethan wanted to name the baby a combination of his name and that of Benjamin. Ethan and Britni agreed to name the baby Eban. (Later called Little E)

Britni also devoted her time to be with Ethan. The family made sure one or more were with him at all times. They went with him from Walter Reed to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Then back to Walter Reed, from Walter Reed to Veterans Rehab Center in Tampa, Florida, then back to Walter Reed and finally, the Veterans Administration Hospital in Indianapolis.

The financial burden was astronomical. Church groups, veterans groups and others organized to raise money to help them out and also to obtain airline free mileage donations for their trips to be with him. During all this Britni got closer and closer to the birth of their son.

An attorney who specializes in such things was contacted. He arranged with a company to have Ethan and Britni get married by proxy, and the wedding was legally performed. They were now husband and wife.

In late July, Rand Biggers, the father agreed with his wife that they should take turns taking two weeks off for some rest. Rand had been at Ethans side since April. Wanting to be home to welcome his son Matt, Ethans twin brother who was returning from Germany, left for home.

On Thursday, July 27th, exiting I-675 on to U.S. 35 another car out of control, flew over an embankment, landing on top of Rand Biggerís Jeep, killing both drivers. Rand was 59 years old. Matt arrived home from Germany two days later. Within a short time, one maternal and one paternal grandparent also passed away. Talk about a hard luck family.!

The one piece of good news was that the Baby Eban was born healthy. More good news came. Ethan was gradually responding and improving. He couldnít talk but could communicate with eye blinks and by squeezing some ones hand. Brain scans were showing improvement. Using his twin brotherís skull for a pattern, new skull pieces were made and surgery done to implant them. They were a perfect fit.

Suddenly, Matt began having dreams that Ethan was communicating with him the fact that he did not want to continue fighting. He wanted to go. He was tired of the struggle. His condition began to go down hill. He wasnít fighting any more. Britni, who now had legal guardianship knew what must be done, but could not bring herself to do it. She turned over legal guardianship to Matt, and Matt ordered the tubes to be removed. At 1:35 A.M. on February 24, 2007 Ethan took his last breath. As he did, he smiled. His twin brother Matt holding his hand and his sister Liza were at his side. He had gone to be with his father. He was buried beside his father on March 7, 2007, almost exactly one year from the time he was hit by the snipers bullet.

During his hospitalization, he was awarded the Purple Heart. An old barracks roommate came to pin it on him in his hospital bed. Later, the Bronze Star was awarded him posthumously, and a Brigadier General presented it to his wife Britni, who was holding his nine month old son Eban at the time.

This family that remains has been through a lengthy ordeal we can but begin to imagine. They continue to need our prayers and I respectfully ask that you give them in plenty.

There are a number of web sites and blogs where the pictures of Ethanís funeral can be seen as well as members of the family including wife and child. In addition, parts of the story I have not included here, and some here, you will not find there.

The list of sites are as follows:



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