Nyadeng Mal, Reporter
Local community members gathered on Nov. 19 in the Pioneer Park Pavilion to celebrate the life of Staff Sgt. Bryan Black.
Black was one of four Green Berets killed in an ambush attack in Niger on Oct. 4. Black leaves behind two sons, Ezekiel and Isaac and his wife Michelle Black.
The room was filled with family, friends and servicemembers all in attendance to remember the life of Black. The Puyallup High School Choir opened the service by honoring Black, a PHS alumnus, with the Star Spangled Banner.
Black was a Running Start student, simultaneously receiving his high school diploma and associate degree from Pierce College Puyallup and Puyallup High School in 2000.
“The American Soldier does not travel the globe to advance but to liberate,” a speaker at the memorial said. He spoke of how Black was a hard worker and was always trying to better himself.
“Bryan was one of the most impressive soldiers I knew,” the second speaker said, adding that Black always tried to better himself and improve in all aspects of his life and as a soldier.
As the evening went on, more speakers came forward and remembered the valuable memories they shared with Black. The room was filled with laughter, prayers, tears of sorrow and tears of joy as family and friends hugged and consoled one another.
“His high school wrestling coach Glen Owen said he was a tough kid. He had that ‘don’t give up’ mentality,” the second speaker said.
He spoke of the rare times he would beat Black at chess and how he would come back with a vengeance to beat him.
“It’s like he went home and studied how good you were and how he could beat you next time,” the second speaker said.
Black loved to play chess, and many said he was one of the best players they knew. Black was a member of the Tacoma Chess Club. His passion came from watching his brother play.
“Bryan learned to play chess after being beat by his brother one summer. I guess some could call him persistent,” Service Officer Jorge Ramirez said.
Black was also part of the 1999 Puyallup High School Chess Club, the club placed seventh in the nation’s national tournament.
He spoke of how well Black picked up the skill of playing chess and how he wanted to be good at everything he did. He described Black as an avid reader who also liked to collect rare coins.
The third speaker of the evening recalled the times Black wasn’t so serious. He always made time to tease his younger brother and just laugh and have fun.
“Bryan requested to have an Irish folk song to be played at his memorial, he wanted attendees to laugh even when they were hurting,” said the third speaker. “They say you die twice. The first time and then the second time when people stop talking about you, we know (we did) our job.”
The last speaker of the evening was Black’s father, Henry Black. He thanked community members for their kindness and generosity during the past month as strangers have reached out with small acts of kindness and volunteering to help Black’s family.
“We have received grace and compassion from strangers asking to upkeep our front lawn,” Black said. They have received random knocks on their doors from strangers asking to pick up any extra work around their home, and from community members and churches in the area volunteering to help the family in their time of need.
“Bryan is a son of Puyallup. He is the son of this community,” Henry Black said.
The evening ended with the Black family fulfilling his wish by playing the Irish folk song, Finnegan’s Wake, by The Irish Rovers over a seven-minute video Bryan’s mother, Karen Black, prepared.
Humorous childhood photos of Black played and audience members laughed, just as Black wanted.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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