Mobile, Ala. -- Lance Cpl. Bradley Michael Faircloth was 20 years old when he lost his life. He was the first Marine into a house haunted by nameless assailants and was gunned down in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, on Thanksgiving Day 2004. As most families came together to celebrate the holiday, a mother’s son lay lifeless on a dusty floor, earning his third Purple Heart in two weeks.
However, Bradley Faircloth’s story doesn’t begin or end on that floor. He lived each day of his 20 years as if it was the last day and he lived his last day like the rest – hard, fast, and larger than life. He was a football player, a friend and a hero. He was the Marine that everyone wanted next to them when the bullets started to fly and his death has done little to stop him from touching people’s lives – evidenced by the hundreds of classmates, Marines and members of his hometown that paid tribute to his memory during the dedication of a statute at his high school on April 14.
“He truly did live life. He lived more life than people who are 60,” his mother, Kathleen, explained. “I don’t think there was anything that he wanted to do that he didn’t do.”
A 2002 graduate of Murphy High School in Mobile, Ala., Faircloth bled school colors and really “loved his school,” according to his principal, Doug Estle. In that same vain, before leaving for Iraq in 2004, Faircloth told his mother that if he were to die there, he wanted donations made in his honor to Murphy for the completion of a senior class project that his class had begun with a $1,000 gift. The project called for the creation of a statute that depicted the school’s mascot, a panther.
What became one of his last wishes kick-started a contribution campaign that led to the construction of a half-ton, 8-foot-long by 4-foot-high bronze panther sculpted by local artist Cory Swindle of Fairhope, Ala.
The panther was revealed during an emotional ceremony attended by some of the Marines from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, who were there with Faircloth in Iraq when he died and who made the pilgrimage to Mobile to be with their platoon mate.
“It means a lot to honor him. He would do anything for anybody,” said Lance Cpl. Brad Cushing, an Alpha Co. team leader who served with Faircloth from boot camp to Fallujah. “He had the biggest heart in the world.”
During the ceremony, the school chorus performed a song written by one of his friends titled, “Jersey 44,” named for Faircloth’s football number and whose lyrics detailed what Faircloth has come to mean not only to a school, but to a community and a Corps. His friends say that he is what’s meant when Marines speak of fearlessness, honor, courage and commitment to duty. He wanted to make a difference and he did by doing what he loved – Bradley Faircloth was a Marine.
“I taught him not to have any fear,” said Kathleen. “He loved it. He was doing something that he believed in. He was real serious about it. He wanted to do something that mattered.”