Role at OSU: Spouse of current OSU Student, Brittnay McCall
Survived By: Wife, Brittnay McCall
Date of Loss: 30 October 2007
Accident Type: IED
Country of Loss: Iraq
At face value, Brittnay McCall comes across as an early 20-something-year old about to complete her degree on the typical high school – college – career track. Studying nursing, she sits next to classmates who talk about the struggles of dorm life, think 10 AM lecture is too early a time to be awake, and complain that “daddy won’t buy the boots [they] wanted.” Somewhat inconspicuous, it would be easy to include Brittnay in this peer group.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Brittnay is actually 29 and is only just starting her education at The Ohio State University. Becoming a student again is part of the moving forward process after her husband, Daniel McCall, was killed in action 30 October 2007. While most students’ personal reasons for being in college range from “my parents made me” to “I want a good career,” Brittnay feeds off a much more profound drive: studying and living “everyday in honor of Daniel.”
Daniel McCall and Brittnay met the fall of 2005 after their mutual friends invited them on a double date. Slightly hesitant at first, Brittnay was pleasantly surprised when they wound up spending the entire evening talking ravenously. From Pace, Georgia, Daniel graduated high school in 2001 and had reported to boot camp 1 June 2004. After graduation, he was selected as an infantryman. Wanting to pursue the elite, Daniel had been going through Army Special Forces selection when their introductory night occurred. Brittnay remembers being quickly attracted to his humor, selflessness, and overall good nature. That fateful evening bloomed into a strong relationship.
Six months after meeting, Daniel received orders to Fort Benning, GA to the 3rd Infantry Division. Discussing their options, he nonchalantly asked, “What if I married you and you came with me?” And, on April 9th, 2006, when Brittnay was 21, they had a courthouse marriage.
On March 9th, 2007, Daniel deployed to Salmen pak, Iraq, exactly one month short of their first anniversary. Brittnay took on multiple overtime shifts managing the daycare center at a nearby gym. The young couple wasn’t struggling financially, but Brittnay needed something to keep her mind busy during his absence, a period of time characterized by uncertainty. Although she couldn’t physically be near him, the schedule and logistical situation of Daniel’s unit allowed some form of communication between the couple almost every day. The couple utilized webcams, email, phone calls, and online instant messenger services to stay connected.
On the morning of October 30th 2007, Brittnay logged onto her instant messenger to find that Daniel was not online. Though uncommon, it wasn’t an immediately alarming sign as he occasionally had unplanned tasks or missions that ran longer than expected. After returning home from lunch with a friend, she noticed a military officer and a chaplain waiting around her apartment complex but didn’t think much of it. A couple minutes after entering her residence, there was a knock at the door. Upon opening, the same officer and chaplain stood outside.
“Are you Brittnay McCall?” they asked and she responded, “Yes,” innocently.
“Are you the wife of Daniel McCall?” they asked and she again responded, “Yes,” still unknowingly.
“On the behalf of a grateful nation, we regret to inform you…” and that’s when it hit her.
The rest of the day remains a blurred memory swamped with confusion, anger, denial, and heartbreak. Daniel had been riding in the back of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when it was hit by a very powerful Improvised Explosive Device.
For the next couple months, Brittnay “didn’t care about life.” Basic tasks like drinking, eating, and sleeping weren’t of any concern to her. Life was numb. She would sit in her living room and gaze out the window all day, unmoving. Even through the night, Brittnay would sit in an empty extra bedroom, staring at the night sky with glazed eyes. In an eerie timing of events, her sister had given birth just days before the tragic news came. For many weeks, her sister sat by Brittnay’s side all through the night, nursing and calming her newborn daughter. In his honor, the daughter’s middle name was designated “Daniel.”
Daniel’s ceremony occurred at the West Milton Church of Christ in his hometown of Pace, FL. After, Daniel’s remains were transported to Barrancos National Cemetery – the closest military cemetery to Pace, right outside of Pensacola, FL. During the drive, Brittnay sat in the front passenger seat…and was awestruck. The entire town had shut down to recognize Daniel. The signs of local businesses all paid tribute and everyone they passed on the sidewalks stood still in recognition. As they passed Daniel’s middle and high school, she saw masses of students and faculty all standing outside in salute. After leaving town, every single vehicle they passed on the 30 minute drive stopped and pulled to the side of the road. Even vehicles on the opposing lane of the freeway were parked, its occupants, just like the school children, standing outside in a silent salute. They had all heard about their neighbor from Pace, who had given the ultimate sacrifice protecting their freedoms and safety, and had to pay respect. At the cemetery, a Blue Angels flyover concluded the burial of Sgt. Daniel McCall.
Right after the funeral, Brittnay moved to North Carolina and for the next three years, she “lived in a fog.” The first year, she was convinced someone was lying to her – Daniel just had to be alive. Perhaps there was mix-up, someone putting together the paperwork had accidently written the wrong Daniel. Or, perhaps Daniel was hit but recuperating in a field hospital, only unaccounted for due to the chaos of war. But, no renouncement ever arrived. Two years after the incident, she was finally able to return to work.
Six years after the accident, Brittnay McCall started her first semester at The Ohio State University in the Autumn of 2013. Even though her daily life has become easier, the pain will occasionally re-strike just as unpredicted and severe as the first day. Although it’s challenging, she chooses to focus on the happy moments, like their first evening together or Daniel’s request for a concrete yard with painted grass, so “he wouldn’t have to deal with flies anymore.” With these memories, she is here at OSU to become a nurse and give her service to the needing public, just as Daniel has. She is “not moving on, but moving forward” with her life, trying to better herself and live every day in honor of Daniel.
Army Sgt. Daniel McCall was killed in action 30 October 2007.
Also killed in the vehicle were: Pfc. Rush M. Jenkins, 22, of Clarksville, Tenn., and Pvt. Cody M. Carver, 19, of Haskell, Okla. All three were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.