STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - If we ever needed a reminder about the "harm's way" our service members are in everyday their tours keep them in Afghanistan, we got it Monday near Bagram Airbase.
One year after President Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission there, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest killing six Americans, just four days before Christmas.
One of those killed, a local who made an impact on hundreds in our community. A rare gem who dedicated his young life to the good fight, never to self-grandeur.
"He represented Statesboro High at the finest height," said Coach Steve Pennington, Statesboro High football head coach.
Pennington never wants to be a coach defined by wins and losses, but by the relationships created. His cornerback in the 2001 state championship game, number one, Chester McBride was everything Pennington could have wanted in a player.
"The players respected him because he worked to meet the best of his capabilities. He valued work ethic. He valued teamwork. And he appreciated this program," said Coach Pennington.
And McBride appreciated the world as an observer, not the attention-getter so many with his talents become.
"In his quietness, I believe he was a person who observed life itself. He had great compassion for others, and he wanted to do well," said Coach Pennington.
On Monday, McBride and several others in his unit were on their way to speak with local Afghan leaders near Bagram Airbase when a motorcycle drove into the group, its rider detonating an explosive vest.
McBride and five other Americans died. The deadliest attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan in more than two years.
It was just two months ago, McBride spent his last day before this deployment speaking to the players on the Statesboro football team about living an honorable life. An emotional Coach Pennington remembers every point McBride made to his boys.
"First of all he made the point to make sure than you make the most of every opportunity. Teenagers need to hear that today. The second thing is he really challenger them to make good choices in life. Be careful of who you choose as friends and who you associate with," said Coach Pennington. "The third thing was that he challenged our player to respect authority. And the fourth thing is that he re-emphasized about doing right. And those are four lessons in life that really characterize him."
McBride will be remembered as a great defensive back, yes, but also the guy who had your back, who made sure failure was just another tool to use in the pursuit of success.
"One of Chester's attributes is that he dug deeper and fought harder to overcome his mistakes and I think that certainly a quality that will be everlasting here at Statesboro High School," said Coach Pennington.