August 15th, 2011
01:51 PM ET

Army captain who created fund for fallen pilot's son tells boy: 'He loved you'

For a brief moment on CNN on Monday, a U.S. soldier who served alongside a decorated Army pilot - one of the men killed in this month's Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan - spoke directly to that fallen pilot's 10-year-old son. (See how to give to the fund.)

"Braydon, buddy, from your extended Army family, we just want to let you know that we had the privilege of serving with your father," Army Capt. Jamie Schwandt said Monday on "CNN Newsroom." "We found out first-hand just how great of a person your father really was.

"He loved you so much," Schwandt continued, his voice breaking. "He talked about you all the time. You should be extremely proud of him."

Schwandt has set up a college trust fund for Braydon Nichols, the son of Bryan Nichols, a chief warrant officer who was piloting the Chinook helicopter when it was shot down by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's Wardak province on August 6. (Learn more about Nichols on's Home and Away site, which chronicles those killed in the Afghan war.) The officer was among a team of elite SEALs and other American and Afghan personnel who died in the crash. The Chinook was shot down while on a mission to help Army Rangers who had come under attack in the area. (Learn more about the SEALs who died.)

Braydon, with the help of his mother, Jessica Nichols, of Kansas City, Missouri, posted an iReport just hours after learning that Bryan Nichols had died. She and her son were watching television news reports that showed photos of other men who died, and the boy asked his mother why there were no pictures of his father. Braydon wanted to change that, so he and his mother went to to post the iReport, which included a picture of Bryan Nichols. published a story about that iReport.

The response from CNN's audience was immediate, massive and heartfelt. More than 54 pages of iReport tributes have poured in - more than 250 - to There have been dozens of notes to the boy on Bryan Nichols' Home and Away page. Some of those messages are from fathers who sent photos of them hugging their own young sons, writing that the story of Braydon's loss broke their hearts. Many readers wrote to say that the story of the American boy losing his dad minimized their everyday personal problems. Others wrote to say that they had also lost a loved one during wartime.

Jessica Nichols told that the child continues to read every message, and he understands that a lot of people are offering their support to him and other children whose parents have been touched in some way by the nearly 10-year war.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • U.S. Navy • World
soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Phil

    Come over here and say that....

    August 16, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. aida yu

    I am so touching about your story. BE strong,remember your dad always in your mind,no matter what. He is in God'S HAND.


    August 16, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    I wish those "hitmen" would take care of pieces of garbage like you.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Anonymous

    Get over yourself. If you feel this way, then maybe you should leave the US

    August 16, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. Romeo Echo

    Harold you sound like the kid who even though he owned the Basketball, when everyone was shooting at the Foul
    line to see who made the 10 man team, missed, and since you were not on the team. Left taking your Basketball with you, Wanting to insure, if you did not play, nobody would. It is unfortunate, men like you have not discoverd
    what it is to be a Man, or to be in support of Men who without question place themselves in harms way, the Military for
    multiple reasons, Career, Religion, Economics, Family, Duty & Honor. So ou were not able to make the BoyScouts,
    the High School Sports Team, the Military 4 F'D you, the Swimming Team would not take you, denied the company
    of a girl friend, cannnot decide which side of your hair, should have a part.

    We understand Harold but don't worry, you will be safe inside you home. Man of Law Enforcement, Fire, Media
    Legal, Medical, and Military will protect you.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. petercha

    A very big THANK YOU from this civilian, and all patriotic Americans, to all our men and women in the armed forces, whatever branch you may be in. You are all greatly appreciated.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. petercha

    Sad how liberals are always trying to get us to hate those who have worked hard enough to become rich.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Sad how you would take this moment of sharing and turn it on it's ear with a partisan jab.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Truth2

    Harold you are full of BS...but even if you were correct, what mean spirited sickness are you possessed of in posting as you did on a story for the benifit of one small child whom has lost his father-a man to the best of his knowledge- serving his nation.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kerry

    The U.S. is a bit self-indulgent about this. Wearing our hearts on our sleeves only gives our enemies’ power….best to quit advertising our failures and move on. Try not to make the same mistakes....putting all the eggs in one basket is not a good idea. Learn by this and toughen up for the sake of the nation and those who are to follow.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    You can understand the decay of America after reading some of this comments. I feel sorry for Braydon growing up in the next 30 years.Good luck son.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      You couldnt have said it any better jack........some just arent really getting the big picture.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Beckie Holmes

      Liked your comments. I was a proud American today to know that hundreds of other patriots gathered in our small community of 20,000 to honor Bryan and his ultimate sacrifice to our nation. We also honor his family. Personally I did not get to attend the procession that followed his body from our airport into town nor the funeral and procession almost 40 miles to his final resting place. But have heard and seen photos of people who did partake or drove by and took photos. And our local law inforcement and honor guard saw to it that the followers of Rev Phillips did not disrupt any of the solemn services or processions. All our hearts go out to Bryan's wife and that wonderful little boy of his, Braydon.

      August 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve K

    Bill, I'm curious what your definition of the "front lines" is, because Pat Tillman enlisted and joined the Rangers. Try telling them they've never been on the front lines. Ted Williams was also an aviator in the Marine Corps during World War II and also served in Korea. I guess it's a good thing flying planes during wartime was never considered hazardous. Perhaps you're the one who needs to do some research. No big deal, though.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. big Al of KC

    @demilioso. I understand your post but when people make insensitive comments that come across offensive to us veterans that make those sacrifices only to be downgraded or down right disrespectful statement, they will get a response from us. Free speech does not mean It's ok to be hateful. Go live in a Third World country and see how it is there. Got it?

    August 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • demilioso

      @bigAL – Service is supposed to be modest and selfless. There is, and always have been idiots and disrespectful buffoons (in the US and everywhere else). If you cannot handle them than perhaps service was not the field for you to be in. You're also free to leave the United States if you think it's full of the wrong kind of people. And I mean that with no offense. I'm just saying it goes both ways.

      August 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. alice brattin

    God Bless our servicemen and women. May they all return home as soon as possible. May all the families find peace in there hearts and know that God will watch over them. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!!!!

    August 17, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. TheycallmeDoc

    No matter the size of the house they live in, or the car that they drive; the loss of a parent to a child is heart wrenching. Sadly it seems the only time the U.S. comes together is when there is tragedy, and even then there are arguments filled with venoumous words to follow.

    August 17, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      Amen to that. A child writes to try and understand something that he is very young to try and grasp. What do so many people do? Try and use this child's heartbreak and confusion to complain about politics and things that belong elsewhere on another story. If you can't reply to the child and his family with words of comfort or hope, then don't say anything at all on his story.

      August 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. autoversicherungsrechner oesterreich

    Provision Relative,early terms important primary neighbour form current apply health night fresh great adult too simply male bright examination interested concentrate sir thus end unable say will gas believe industrial final community relevant display spring above record method somewhat must loan die influence stock youth mental man conversation writer earth chance sport attractive judge context perfect fight component legal experience error speak much appearance jump garden occasion issue network much variation interview assess area physical alternative date right text face break view think fully fair data both minister equipment remind whatever task

    October 2, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
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