David A. Bryant

David A. Bryant

Normally I would have written about yet another outrage I’d found in the National Defense Authorization Act, but after receiving some sad news on Monday, I thought I would dedicate my column this week to a young fighter.

Connor Hedge was a 5-year-old warrior, and he had battled stage 4 neuroblastoma, an aggressive pediatric cancer, since he was 2. Unfortunately, Connor lost his battle Sunday, six days before he would have turned 6.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to help your child battle such a serious disease so young, and my heart goes out to Maj. Robert Hedge and his family. Hedge is a logistics officer with the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, and from what the unit public affairs officer, Capt. Kevin Sandell, tells me, Connor had become a little mascot up at brigade headquarters.

I had the pleasure of meeting Connor once when I was the Copperas Cove Herald editor. As a Cove resident, I took an interest in what was going on in my little town so when I started seeing people wearing bright yellow shirts with #ConnerStrong on it, I was naturally curious.

It turns out Connor’s new school in Cove, House Creek Elementary School, was fully supporting the young warrior. Nearly half of the students at the school are the children of military parents, so supporting a fellow “Brat” was only natural for the students, faculty and staff.

In his short life, Connor underwent several chemotherapy and radiation treatments, three major surgeries, a craniotomy to remove brain tumors and many antibody treatments. That’s a lot for an adult to endure, let alone a small child. I don’t think I would be strong enough to watch my child or grandchild go through it.

I will say that my small community makes me very proud when I see what it does to support our soldiers and their families. In October 2015, at the Copperas Cove High School vs. Killeen High School football game, Connor tossed the coin to start the game, was given his own “Bulldawg” jersey and both teams wore yellow in support of #ConnorStrong, a movement designed to bring awareness to childhood neuroblastoma. Also at the game, Connor was presented a jersey and signed golden helmet by all the football players of Baylor University.

House Creek Elementary kept yellow ribbons around the school’s trees while Connor was away for treatment, so he’d know his friends were ready to have him back at school. Teachers, staff and students wore yellow #ConnorStrong T-shirts to send him off and welcome him back.

This Saturday, on what would be Connor’s birthday, friends of the family have asked people to take pictures of them having fun and post them on Facebook with the hashtag #connorstrongforever to celebrate his young life. To honor this young warrior, let’s make the whole world know what it means to be Connor Strong.

David A. Bryant is an Army retiree and the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at dbryant@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7554.

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