To Autumn Walden, Brett was a quiet, laid-back man who loved to ride horses and always told her everything would work out.
Almost 10 years after his death, the Springettsbury Township attorney and mother says she is still learning about her husband's other side - about Brett Walden, the Green Beret decorated for his service in Afghanistan and Iraq before he was killed months short of retiring from the military.
Autumn Walden says her husband, who won two Bronze Medals and a Purple Heart, was a dedicated patriot who promoted freedom abroad so he could return home to his daughter Alex, now 21, and ride horses. She said his loves at home helped him become a hero.
"We had a farm off of Rohlers Church [Road] and I always said, 'Thankfully you knew how to ride horses, because we didn't know you'd be going through the canyons and mountains of Afghanistan hunting terrorists on horseback,'" Walden said.
Brett Walden died in Iraq on Aug. 5, 2005, when a civilian fuel truck collided with his armored Humvee. He was 40 years old.
On Monday morning, state Rep. Seth Grove officially dedicated the bridge on Carlisle Road between Drawbaugh Avenue and Mill Alley in Dover in Walden's honor. Walden's former comrades also delivered remarks before Alex Walden unveiled the sign designating the structure as the Sgt. First Class Brett E. Walden Memorial Bridge.
Lt. Col. Trevor Hill said the bridge is a perfect metaphor for Walden as a person and as a soldier.
"That's what bridges do - they carry weight for us without complaint, they connect us and they serve without question, and that's what Brett was to us," Hill said. "He did his job masterfully, he was an expert in tactics and he wouldn't tell you, because he was a quiet professional. He did not brag, he didn't tell you about himself, he just did his job faithfully."
Autumn Walden said she only recently discovered her husband was one of the first American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan after Sept. 11.
At Monday's dedication, Sgt. Maj. Michael Manley, who was with her husband the day Walden died, celebrated the soldier's five tours of duty and said the bridge memorializes his service for the country.
"Some day people will cross this bridge who have never heard of Sgt. First Class Walden. I hope those folks, years from now, will be drawn to learn more about this brave man," Manley said. "Through this bridge, the sacrifice of Sgt. First Class Walden will live through the generations and serve as a testament to the true price of freedom."
- Reach Michael Tabb at firstname.lastname@example.org.