Honoring Sgt. Joshua Brennan

By: Erin Koskovich Email
By: Erin Koskovich Email

Updated Tuesday --- November 6, 2007

Click HERE to Watch a Video Tribute to Josh:

When we first reported on Josh's service in our unsung heroes report his father expressed Josh and his fellow soldiers felt they were forgotten. However, it was evident Tuesday at Josh's memorial and burial that Josh was not forgotten and will not be forgotten.

Twenty-two year old Sergeant Joshua Brennan gave his life to serve and was killed while serving in Afghanistan. His cousin talked about growing up with Josh. She remembered good times of playing hide and seek, kick the can, and swimming around as children. "Looking back on the way we always got together when Josh would come home, it was like we all knew we would only have him for a short time," his cousin said.

However, in his short life, Sgt. Brennan made a huge impact. During his first tour of duty in Afghanistan his natural leadership and strength were noticed--especially by his squad leader. "He was a guy that could be responsible for others he could handle stress that most people couldn't fathom."

Josh was a fighter. A letter to the Brennan family from Captain Mark Bush describes Josh's efforts to save a fellow soldier during his first tour of duty. The letter read: "For the 45 minutes that it took for the MedEvac bird to arrive. Josh continued to do CPR on Lt. Derrick Huntz, even though he knew he was gone, Josh refused to let go. I was left with the impression that as long as josh felt he could make a difference he would continue to give it his all," wrote Capt. Bush.

For his efforts he was named the soldier of the year for the 173rd airborne brigade and given a bronze star. A rare recognition for a soldier of his rank. Sergeant Tom Hunter said, "You guys throw the word hero around a lot and that's good, but Josh Brennan was a hero before he died."

No one could probably understand Josh's efforts more than Sgt. Hunter. He served by Josh's side and has been by his side since he died. Sgt. Hunter says before they left for their second tour of duty he was talking to Josh--telling him he was concerned about the two of them and their safety. "He looked me in the eye and he said, 'I don't know what your worried about.' He's like, 'we're both going to get out of this fine.' " Sgt. Hunter paused, choking up.

Things didn't end just fine for those who knew and loved Josh. Josh's first tour of duty squad leader said, "Here we are Josh standing right beside you and I know you're here looking down from above.... We're still your brother. We're still your brothers."

Many of Josh's brothers in arms came from across the country to attend the memorial and burial. Sgt. Hunter made sure they were recognized as well. "I would like all of you to stand up right now and be recognized as Josh's brothers," said Sgt. Hunter as the room erupted in applause and a standing ovation.

For his brothers in arms along with family, friends, and law enforcement gathering together was just one way to show their support for the man who fought, sacrificed, and will forever be remembered for his heroic efforts. "None of us with ever forget the sacrifice he made," said Sgt. Hunter.

"Josh we love you and we miss you. I know you're having a blast in heaven and we'll see you soon," his cousin said.

Tuesday the military presented his family 5 medals honoring Josh and his service. They were presented with two bronze stars, a purple heart, the Afghanistan Campaign medal, and the Global War on Terror Service medal.


Updated Monday --- November 5, 2007

Governor Doyle has ordered all state buildings to fly flags at half-staff Tuesday in honor of a fallen soldier with Wisconsin ties.

Sergeant Joshua Brennan was killed in Afghanistan October 26th. His funeral will be Tuesday in Madison, and he will be laid to rest in McFarland.


Posted Sunday --- November 4, 2007

He fought for our freedom and lost his life. Sunday, Sergeant Joshua Brennan returned to Madison with a processional fit for a hero.

Motorcycles, squad cars, and people came one after the other. Some traveled from Chicago alongside the family in order to honor Josh and give him the homecoming they felt he deserved. Madison Police Captain, Carl Gloede was among those who met the Brennan family in Chicago and made the trip back to Madison with Josh. "It's a sad day, but we're here to give him the honor, respect, dignity that he deserves," said Captain Gloede.

Flags lined the street and police officer after police officer stood tall waiting for a fallen soldier's arrival. The loss of this soldier was not just painful for the Brennan family. Josh's father, Mike, is a Madison police officer and Josh also hoped to be a member of law enforcement one day. So those in uniform showed up to support one of their own and squad car after squad car followed the family to Gunderson Funeral Home on Monona Drive. "It means a lot. It means a lot to the police community and that it's a son of a police officer. Mike is well known, loved, and it's just hard to see a parent lose their son. So we're here to support him," Captain Gloede said.

They weren't the only ones. Family, friends, veterans, and community members felt it was their duty to welcome home a soldier--no matter the circumstances. "We believe we owe a great debt to the people who give their lives for us and we're here to show our respect and to honor those who've fallen for us," said John Curran, state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders ride their motorcycles alongside military families. The group makes it their mission to support military families because they feel whether they're part of a military family, a police family, or a cycle family, they're all in this together. "When we get done they consider us family, we consider them family, so it's just something we have to do," Curran said.

Members of the Madison Police honor guard and volunteers will keep a twenty-four hour a day watch over Josh until he is laid to rest Tuesday. A visitation will be held Monday at the Gunderson Funeral home at 5203 Monona Drive, Madison. Sgt. Brennan's funeral and burial will be Tuesday.

Click HERE to view a touching tribute to Josh and his comrades put together by National Public Radio:


Memorial Fund for Joshua Brennan:


Posted Wednesday --- October 31, 2007 -- 10:48am

Click HERE to Watch the Tribute:

22 year-old Joshua Brennan was killed last week in Afghanistan.

The soldier has family in McFarland and was serving his 2nd tour of duty.

Josh was honored as NBC-15's Unsung Hero in September.

His father sent us a video tribute that Josh's cousin put together. He wanted us to share it with you.

Josh's father says of the tribute, "It is a really nice tribute to a fallen hero."

Funeral services for Josh are scheduled for Tuesday, November 6 2007 at 10:00 am. The service will be held at St. Maria Goretti church on Flad Ave in Madison.

The funeral services will conclude with a Police escort to McFarland for a burial in the McFarland cemetery on Broadhead St.

The funeral procession will run through downtown McFarland.

Post Your Own Comments Below


Posted Monday ---- October 29, 2007 -- 11:16am

Ontario soldier remembered as dedicated, dependable young man

MCFARLAND, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin father who lost his son in a Taliban firefight says the soldier was serving his second tour in Afghanistan.

22-year-old Army Sergeant Joshua Brennan died Friday, a day after he was shot in the chest.

Michael Brennan of McFarland says Taliban fighters tried dragging his son away after they shot him, but a medic threw grenades at them to prevent that. Then the medic was killed.

The soldier's mother, Janice Gates of Ontario, Oregon says her son's enlistment was supposed to end in September, but an order extended his service for a year.

Gates says her son wasn't resentful of that order, and felt what brought him to Afghanistan was a worthwhile and just cause, that they needed to be there to preserve independence and freedom in the United States and elsewhere.

He was a 2003 graduate of Ontario (Ore.) High School and wanted to pursue a career in forensic science or criminology after the service.



Posted Friday ---- October 26, 2007

22 year-old Joshua Brennan was honored as September's Unsung Hero.

The soldier has family in McFarland and was serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

His story of survival and courage touched many of our viewers.

Josh's father, Michael Brennan contacted us Friday morning with news no one wanted to hear. Josh was killed in Afghanistan this week.

Michael says, "I learned that Josh was killed after their unit was ambushed. He initially was shot and the Taliban were trying to take him away. A brave medic stood up and threw hand grenades at the Taliban to keep them from taking Josh and the medic was killed in the process. Josh later died of his wounds. As I said in my interview Josh has always felt like he and the guys over there have been forgotten. I want to give him a hero's welcome home that he so deserves and make sure that he is never forgotten."

He truly is an Unsung Hero in our eyes and the eyes of many, many others.

Below is the original report we aired on Josh's Story in September.

Feel free to leave your comments below.


Posted September 28, 2007

A 22 year-old with family in McFarland is serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

However, he's not your ordinary soldier ... he's survived several firefights with the Taliban, one in which he took a bullet.

Joshua Brennan looks like just about any other 22 year old ... but this young man spends most of the year carrying a gun and fighting for his life.

Josh's father Michael Brennan says, "In the last 2 months he said he and the guys in his unit had been shot at all but three days in 2 months time which I find incredible that they're being engaged by the enemy that much and their life is being put in jeopardy on such a regular basis."

Sgt. Joshua Brennan is just one of many soldiers putting their lives on the line, while family back home worry about their safe return.

Michael says, "I received a call on August 8th of this year from the department of defense that Josh had been injured."

In a firefight with the Taliban, Josh was shot in the leg.

He continued to fight for several hours, then made his way down the mountain for help.

He thought he would be able to return to duty in about a month to two months time. He since recovered from the gunshot wound to his leg and has since returned to full duty," says Michael.

He will now have a purple heart to add to his list of honors, which already includes the bronze star of valor for his first tour in Afghanistan and the soldier of the year award for the 173rd airborne brigade.

"I'm extremely proud of him," says Michael.

As this young man fights ... he hopes it's not for naught.

He's stated to me many times that he and the other soldiers that he serves with feel that they're forgotten," says Michael.

Clearly, those at home have not forgotten.

Joshua is serving about 12,000 feet up in the mountains.

He's located near the Pakistani border and has very little communication.

They get out of the mountains about once a month to shower and try to make contact with family here in the states.

Josh has served 4 years in the Army ... and he will be in Afghanistan for about another year.

He was supposed to get out this month... but the army will hold onto him for another 14 months.

To see pictures of Josh's unit click here:

To post a comment on the Josh's Units Message Board Click Here:

Josh's father says, "If someone wants to send a package to anyone in his unit they would just write Any Soldier at the same address and the box's would be distributed."

To Contact Josh's Unit:

Any Soldier
Task Force Bayonet
Korengal Outpost
APO AE 09354

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
NBC15 615 Forward Drive Madison, Wisconsin 53711 Business: 608-274-1515 Newsroom: 608-274-1500
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 10092006 - nbc15.com/a?a=10092006