TOMBALL - A Houston father, Pastor Arthur Craig, is remembering his son who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Craig is always at his dad’s home in spirit, but he’s being remembered in a special way at the Craig family home on this Memorial Day.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag," several neighborhood children sing in unison in front of the Craig home.
In the remarkable remembrance event, a few dozen people, including neighborhood kids, are stopping by for what the Craig family calls, "Meet Me At The Mailbox event on Memorial Day. (And the mailbox is right across the street from your house?) It is," smiles Pastor Craig who was in the Air Force and the Vietnam War.
This day is giving him a chance to teach the little ones in the area the importance of Memorial Day and about his son. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Craig fought in Operation Enduring Freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice, dying in an explosion in Afghanistan 19 years ago in April 2002.
"The grief that our family feels each Memorial Day, I think it gets magnified," explains Sgt. Craig’s sister Elaine Hurtado.
What was once Staff Sgt. Craig’s pick up truck, the family now uses to honor him. It’s painted patriotic red, white and blue with his picture on the side and a bible verse on the back.
"It certainly is an attention grabber. People come up to the truck with tears coming down their eyes."
The last time Pastor Craig spoke with his son on the phone they were disconnected after he posed this question. "I just simply asked him, 'Brian how is your walk with the Lord right now?' and he started to tell me and we were cut off".
After his son’s death, the grieving father thought he would never get the answer. Then from the mailbox came a miracle.
"We received his letter actually 12 days after his death. It’s like a gift from God," explains Pastor Craig and he reads from the letter. "Dear Dad, you have asked me about my walk with Christ...It is strange that of all my experiences in life that here in Afghanistan I have really started to grow spiritually".
"It was such a blessing. I mean to this day it’s probably our most treasured family possession," adds Hurtado.
People from around the world have contacted Pastor Craig saying the story of the letter impacted them tremendously.
"We know of marriages that have been reconciled, pastors who’ve committed themselves to stay in the ministry," Pastor Craig explains.
Even in death, his son is continuing to touch lives. In fact, one of the last military missions Sgt. Craig accomplished was bringing back to the U.S. more than a dozen MIA’s from the Korean War so their families could give them a proper burial.
"They had 14 sets of remains that they brought home and they were repatriated," says Pastor Craig.
"I didn’t only lose my brother. I did lose my best friend," says Hurtado.
She showed FOX 26 a playful picture of the two of them. It’s a hilarious snapshot of her, big sis sharing her long hair with her little brother after he was shaved bald to enlist in the military.
"I miss him but I’m also proud of him. I have a great amount of pride in who my brother was and what he stood for. He was incredibly patriotic," and he deeply loved his family, saying so as he signed off in this treasured letter.
"I love you," his dad chokes back tears as he reads the words. "I love you and mom so much. Brian."
If you didn’t know a member of the military to honor and take a moment to thank this Memorial Day, you do now.
"It is a time to solemnly remember the sacrifices of the lives of the men and women who have given their life for our freedom," explains his sister.
We are certainly home of the free because of the brave just like Staff Sgt. Brian Craig. Thank you sir for your service.