BANGOR, Maine — Staff Sgt. Brandon Silk died in Afghanistan while serving his country, and to pay homage to his service, outgoing Secretary of State Matt Dunlap on Wednesday dedicated the Bangor branch of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in his honor.
Silk, 25, died June 21 in Afghanistan from injuries he suffered during a hard helicopter landing. He was a Black Hawk crew chief, a member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and was on his fourth tour of duty since 2003, when he enlisted shortly after graduating from Orono High School.
His parents, Orono residents Mark and Lynn Silk, sat in the front row during Wednesday’s dedication, surrounded by family members. Their son’s commanding officer, Capt. Matt Hodges of the 101st Airborne Division, flew to Maine from Tennessee for the dedication and sat beside them during the ceremony.
“For us, as Brandon’s parents, it’s an honor,” Mark Silk, a detective with the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ Office of Investigations and an Army veteran of the 172nd Infantry based in Alaska, said after his son’s plaque was unveiled at the Airport Mall DMV office.
“This is really special,” said Lynn Silk, a middle school principal.
Several members of the Silk family attended the ceremony to honor their fallen loved one. Brandon‘s brother David and his wife, Jaclyn, his grandmother, Nancy Robinson and stepgrandfather Blaine Robinson, his uncle and aunt, John and Tracy Rohen, and his two nieces, Katelynn and Taylor Rohan, were all on hand.
His other brother, Blaine Silk, recently graduated from an Air Force technical school in Texas and will be home Thursday, his mother said. Both of Brandon’s younger brothers are guardsmen with the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor.
“He believed he was fighting for a reason. He believed he was making a difference,” Lynn Silk said. “He was so proud, so I have to be, too.”
The Rev. Bruce Stevens is close to the Silk family and spoke during the ceremony. He said Brandon “made the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
“He’s not gone forever; he just moved ahead,” Stevens said.
Hodges stood before the small crowd and told about how he first met Brandon Silk and how the Orono soldier’s sense of humor and sharp wit still resonates with him today.
“He was the kind of guy I wanted standing next to me, as a leader,” he said.
Silk was serious when he needed to be and the class clown the next second, which made his fellow soldiers — his brothers-in-arms — and his commanding officer love him even more.
“One of our greatest sons gave his life” fighting for this country, Hodges said. “Staff Sgt. Brandon Silk was the best of us [and] we will never forget.”
In addition to family members, attendees at the gathering consisted of DMV staff, representatives of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, as well as members of the Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service, Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Marshal Noel March, and Army Chief Warrant Officer Corey Scott, who serves as a liaison to family members of fallen soldiers.
Detective Stephanie Beaulieu of the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ Office of Investigations presented Mark and Lynn Silk with a scrapbook of Bangor Daily News stories about their son’s death and his funeral and the 130 or so comments that readers posted.
After the ceremony ended, Lynn Silk could be heard saying, “I can’t wait to look at it; it’s amazing.”
Secretary of State-elect Charles Summers, who also is a military veteran, also was on hand and helped Dunlap with unveiling Silk’s plaque.
The plaque, which features a photo of Brandon Silk with a flag in the background, is printed with a quote from Gen. George Patten that reads, “It’s foolish to mourn the man who died. Rather we should thank God such a man lived.”
For Silk’s family members, the pain of losing him is still fresh and they continue to grieve, but the support they’ve received from friends and the community has helped, his mother said.
“We just believe that God has a plan for each of us,” Lynn Silk said. “Sometimes you don’t like the plan.”