BAGRAM, Afghanistan - With less than a month spent in Afghanistan, the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's headquarters battalion have already said goodbye to one of their own.
Capt. Michael C. Braden, formerly of Lock Haven and an officer with the 1st Infantry Division's Signal Company, was found unresponsive in his bed on April 18.
One day before the division assumed its mission here, it began planning its first tribute to a fallen soldier.
The command team of Combined Joint Task Force-1 and the 1st Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., & Command Sgt. Maj. Charles V. Sasser Jr., pay their respects during the memorial service.
A portrait of Capt. Michael Braden sits next to a pair of combat boots at his memorial service on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
1st Infantry Division Soldiers on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, fire a 21-gun-salute for Capt. Michael Braden during a memorial service.
The official autopsy is not complete, but it is thought that Braden died in his sleep of natural causes related to his epileptic past.
A week after Braden's passing, more than 100 of his friends and comrades came to honor his life at a memorial service at the Enduring Faith Chapel on Bagram Airfield.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Hall, Braden's friend and co-worker, gave a speech during the service.
"I have known Capt. Braden since he came to the team in June of 2009," said Hall. "I had the privilege of deploying to Iraq with him, where he worked hard to ensure every soldier had water, electricity and everything they needed to be comfortable.
"Here, he loved the information assurance section and was just getting to know the flow of our duties," Hall continued. "Although Capt. Braden knew that he had a medical condition he was working through, he still did everything he could to deploy with us and stay part of the team.
"He would always hang out with us after a long day, because he loved to be a part of the (team). That was where he was comfortable."
Hall also spoke about Braden's personal side, the side where he was a husband, a son and a new father. Braden and his wife recently adopted a child, 2-year-old James.
Reports indicate his mother and father, Harold and Diane Braden, currently live in Newnan, Ga., and his grandmother, Theresa Dawson, is a resident at Susque-View Inc. in Lock Haven.
"It goes without saying that he was a family man," said Hall. "I consider myself fortunate to have seen the caliber of the caring person that he was."
Braden graduated from Lock Haven High School in 1999. He joined the Army in 2004 after graduating from Slippery Rock University with a Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems Management. He has served in positions ranging from platoon leader to company commander, but specialized as an information assurance officer in the division's information management section.
His previous deployments include Operation Enduring Freedom-Qatar in 2005 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.
Braden's awards include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and the Parachutist Badge.
This week he was bestowed the Gold Order of Mercury, which honors any signal-corps soldier who dies during deployment.
"It is our honor to pay respect to Michael's life," said the chaplain nearing the conclusion of the service. "We are grateful for his loyalty and courage, for his protection of our freedom, and for his commitment to his country and the U.S. Army.
"May he walk with God now, and may he rest in peace."
A 21-gun-salute followed the final prayer at Braden's service.
The memorial ended as his fellow soldiers, marching side-by-side in twos, presented their final salutes to an arrangement of the captain's soldierly effects, a display of his rifle, boots, combat helmet and ID tags, symbolic of his life and sacrifice as a U.S. soldier.