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Vet's name 'deserves' to be on memorial

There are so many days York County men show a collective big heart and guts. Thursday was one of those days.

Several in a county veterans group in charge of the York County Veterans Memorial for soldiers who die as a result of combat said Thursday each will endorse adding the name "Staff Sgt. Lee Brooks" to the monument.

Brooks, 26, Rock Hill born and raised, died last week, more than three years after he was wounded in Iraq. While autopsy results aren't back yet, his wife, mother and other family members said Brooks suffered traumatic brain injuries, required reconstructive back surgery and had shrapnel in his leg from a bomb explosion in November 2004. Brooks had chronic pain, suffered from seizures and was in the midst of an honorable medical discharge because of his injuries, family members said.

Brooks, recipient of the Purple Heart and other medals, was buried in Rock Hill with military honors Wednesday. The decision to add a name to the memorial is made by ranking officers of veterans groups. When it becomes clear that Brooks' death was caused from wounds suffered in Iraq, his name belongs on the wall honoring combat casualties, three of those men said Thursday.

"If his death is in any way reflective of combat wounds, I don't see it as a problem at all," said Johnnie Robinson, commander of VFW Post 2889 in Rock Hill. "He should be on that wall."

The monument is in Lakeview Memory Gardens, between York and Clover on U.S. 321. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started, the names of three men -- Paul Neff II, Pat Leach and Kenneth James Butler -- have been added.

"He (Brooks) sure seems eligible for the wall," said Chuck Washburn, commander of Rock Hill's American Legion Post 34. "We talked about it Wednesday night. This hurts every veteran."

Washburn, Robinson and David Guyton, an Army National Guard lieutenant colonel and former Marine, each said Thursday the issue will be raised Sunday when the group meets to plan for York County's annual Memorial Day weekend program that honors veterans and war dead.

Hopefully, the veterans can get verification details from medical and military officials in time to have the wall inscribed before Memorial Day, Guyton said.

Other high-ranking veterans agreed.

"Sgt. Brooks is a native Rock Hillian. He was stationed somewhere else, but as long as he's in the military, he's from Rock Hill," said John Dellinger, a member of Post 34 and state commander for the entire S.C. American Legion. "In my eyes, he's a hero. I think we have to put his name up there."

Iraq war veteran Joe Medlin, a member of the York County veterans council and acting sergeant major of the Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers -- Brooks' first military unit before joining the regular Army -- called the addition of Brooks, "a no-brainer. He deserves to be up there. Period."

Tammy Spencer, Brooks' aunt, said Thursday adding Brooks' name would be an honor for the family.

"He deserves it," Spencer said.

Nobody can bring Lee Brooks back to his mother, Debbie; his wife, Krista; or his 17-month-old daughter, Rylee. But Lee Brooks gave his country his life. He deserves the best honors York County can give him in return.

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