Fallen Friday

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave.
The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. “

-David M. Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Sergeant Brian J. Leonhardt
Merrillville, IN
Operation Enduring Freedom – January 6th, 2012

“Brian Leonhardt will always be remembered as a soldier who gave of himself unconditionally for others and his country. No surprise, as he began that trend in high school: giving himself for others, his school, and his team.” –Coach Phil Santaguida

As a high school basketball player, Brian set the school record for taking charges. In pursuit of that record, Brian had to set both feet and defend his basket in the face of an oncoming offensive player. He worked hard to perfect the stance and got knocked to the floor countless times.  He received many scrapes, bruises, and even a permanent “fat lip” while helping his team to an undefeated season that year and on to a championship. He loved his team, and he gave himself for them.

As a brother to seven siblings, he was the family goofball. He established himself early as the family storyteller with his big, baby blue eyes, hilarious facial expressions, and his flair for relaying a great tale. As he got older, his quick wit and even quicker tongue was always ready for a laugh, usually at the expense of his siblings. “We always knew that if we needed a hand, we could call Brian. Whether it was a call in the pouring rain for help changing a tire on the side of the road or an early-Saturday-morning call from a sister who needed him to cart home a “bargain” recliner in his truck for her after he’d worked late the night before, he would be there to help. He was a devoted uncle to his nieces and nephews. He spoiled them with gifts and attention—always affectionate and patient.” said his sister, Theresa Leonhardt Stoneback

His younger sister, Jackie Leonhardt said, “Brian was an amazing big brother! He was funny, smart, caring, and extremely over protective! He always made time for the people he loved… I remember one night when I was 18, I came home from work and he asked me to go outside with him…he opened the tailgate on his truck, and we just sat there…looking up at the sky…he showed me all the constellations he could see. He taught me how to shoot a basketball, he would spend hours with us shooting hoops, the many rides in the truck…whatever we were doing, he was making us laugh. He was an amazing person. And he is still missed dearly.”

Brian loved Nutella, the Heat basketball team, Oakleys, guns, and his collection of gym shoes. But he really loved his sweetheart, Dianne. He proposed in July of 2011. On a September day a couple of months later, they quietly married, telling only a few people. They were planning a big ceremony when he returned after his deployment. He loved his family, and he gave of himself for them.

Before Brian even graduated high school, he knew he wanted to be in the Army National Guard. Three of his older brothers were serving or had served in the National Guard, and he was so proud to be a combat engineer. He loved being a soldier. One of the last posts on his social media was: “A hero is someone who has given his/her life to something bigger than oneself.” He is truly our hero.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” –John 15:13

Fallen Friday is a weekly series which highlights the story of a fallen service member,
so that their name and story continues to live on.