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A soldier's letter. Charles Cummings reads the handwritten letter from his son Branden's commander in Iraq. Photo by Susanne Cervenka, Florida Today

Published on Floridatoday.com

By Susanne Cervenka

May 28, 2007

 

TITUSVILLE - A day doesn't go by without Charles Cummings thinking of his son, Branden.

 

Some days it's hearing a song or seeing an object that sparks memories.

 

Even young men Cummings meets as a corrections officer in Orlando remind him of his son, who at age 20, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

 

"It doesn't take much to make me think of him," the 50-year-old father said.

 

Army Pfc. Branden C. Cummings died Feb. 14 in Iraq, when an improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded near his Army vehicle during combat operations.

At times, it's difficult to think that the bright young man with a big smile who loved to joke around is gone.

 

"Sometimes I feel like he'll walk through the door," Charles said.

 

Since Branden's death, family and friends have been there for Charles to keep him active and make him laugh.

 

His co-workers, many who have served in Iraq themselves, keep mementos of Branden in their offices. Some have bookmarks with the soldier's picture, while others have items from SpongeBob Squarepants, Branden's favorite cartoon character.

 

And the Cummings family has seen an outpouring of support from people they had never even met.

 

Officials at Brevard Memorial Park have told his family that retired soldiers have come to Branden's grave to pay their respects.

 

"It just goes to show you how important our soldiers are to people today," Charles said.

 

Public memorials like a Titusville woman's project to put troops' names on quilts and a Melbourne church's display of posts for all military personnel killed help Charles as he grieves.

 

"Our men and women who are there are there because they believe in what they are doing," he said. "I think we need to show every man and woman in the military how much we appreciate them." 

 

 

 

 

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