AIKEN - It was 11:22 p.m. Monday when James Wright got the call he dreaded.
Thoughts of grandson Sgt. Bradley Crose were the first thing to enter his mind.
Earlier in the day, he heard that a Chinook transport helicopter had been shot down from the skies of Afghanistan on Saturday. There are hundreds of soldiers over there, he thought; surely his grandson was not on board.
But with the call late Monday, Mr. Wright learned that Sgt. Crose had been on the helicopter and was killed during a fire fight after exiting the wounded aircraft.
Mr. Wright mourned Tuesday at his Graniteville home. He remembered the happy-go-lucky grandson who used to visit every year.
"He was looking forward to going (to the war)," said a somber Mr. Wright, who last talked to his grandson in December, before the 22-year-old shipped out from Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah.
"He didn't have any fears of not coming back. He just wanted justice done for 9-11."
Sgt. Crose was a member of the 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Mr. Wright said his grandson enlisted straight out of high school and had worked hard to graduate from the Ranger program. He was proud to wear the Ranger insignia on his shoulder, Mr. Wright added.
Being a Ranger was Sgt. Crose's dream, said his mother, Sheila Maguhn, from her home near Jacksonville, Fla. His father also served in the Army.
Mrs. Maguhn had talked to her son Friday morning.
"He said, 'Mom, they're moving us out. (I) may not be able to call you for a while. I just want you to know, I love you,"' Mrs. Maguhn said, her voice low and quivering. "Then Saturday all that happened.
"I told him I loved him very much and to be safe. He said he would ... and he's not."
Sgt. Crose's mission Saturday was part of what officials are calling Operation Anaconda. He was one of several hundred soldiers sent to southeastern Afghanistan to flush out remaining al-Qaida and Taliban soldiers.
Before his grandson left, Mr. Wright said, he told his father that if he died he wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The body was being flown to the United States on Tuesday, according to Mr. Wright.
He said he believes there is a special place in heaven for soldiers who die in service of their country.
"Freedom costs, doesn't it?" he said.
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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