In Memoriam

SPC Blaine E. Redding

Lavergne, TN

Home Award Program Recipient

Army Specialist Blaine Edward Redding was born on September 10, 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska to Teresa and Blaine Redding. To brother Logan, three years his junior, Blaine was mentor and protector; although that never prevented Blaine from having fun at his little brother’s expense. Growing up, the boys’ mom dubbed Logan as Blaine’s “crash test dummy,” aware that her oldest son pushed his little brother to try bike tricks and other stunts that Blaine wouldn’t dare perform himself. Those who knew Blaine Redding during his years at Plattsmouth (Neb.) High School would describe him as a skinny, shy kid who went largely unnoticed. Struggling with the routine and rigor of academics, Blaine left high school mid-senior year to obtain his GED.

An entirely different Blaine Redding would emerge after he enlisted with the Army in September of 2007. At six feet tall and 195 pounds, Blaine had grown self-assured and strong in both physique and personality, discovering both purpose and “the something different” he had been searching for during his high school years. The soldier flourished among his fellow warriors, who like him, stood on the ready to defend his country.

Following his training, PFC Blaine Redding was assigned as a to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Fort Campbell, Ky. The unit deployed to Iraq in 2008–2009 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In February of 2009, Blaine was promoted to Army Specialist.

In the summer of 2009 while stationed at Fort Campbell, friends in Blaine’s unit introduced him to Victoria (Nikki) Nichole Colwell, who was 19 at the time and studying at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tenn. Immediately Nikki sensed that Blaine possessed an air of confidence, one that bordered on arrogance; but she also found him handsome and charismatic. The two began texting and talking online, eventually taking in their first “date” at a Mexican restaurant. After a subsequent date at Starbucks where the conversation spanned a few hours, Nikki “just knew” that the two would be seeing lots more of each other. Weeks later, she transferred to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville to be closer to him; the two became inseparable.

By October of 2009, Blaine’s relationship with Nikki had reached “let’s tell my mom” status; and conversations about spending their future together became more frequent. The following Valentine’s Day, Blaine gave Nikki a necklace, apologizing for not having enough money to swing an engagement ring for her instead. But ring or no ring, Nikki would tell him, she wanted him in her life forever; and by the night’s end, it was Nikki who had proposed.

Originally the couple had planned to marry when Blaine returned from deployment, but Blaine refused to wait any longer to marry the love of his life. On March 13, Blaine and Nikki were married among friends and family at a small ceremony in Portland, Tenn.; a honeymoon in the mountain resort city of Gatlinburg, Tenn., followed. Despite Blaine’s impending deployment coming up the next month in May, the newlyweds stayed positive, even sneaking in one last getaway to Destin, Fla.

In May 2010, Blaine’s unit deployed to Afghanistan. But this time he would have a deployment companion-brother Logan, now 19 and an Army private stationed just 30 minutes away. Blaine also frequently phoned his new bride back at home, carefully leaving out details of his job as a wartime mortarman so she wouldn’t worry. Nikki worried anyway.

Sadly, on the evening of June 7, 2010, her worst fears came true. While Nikki was loading care packages at her mom’s house to send overseas to both Blaine and Logan, her mother-in-law called to report devastating news: Blaine’s Combat Team hit an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in the Dangam district of Kunar Province. Blaine and four others in the vehicle were killed instantly. Later, Logan would later have the difficult task of escorting his brother’s body on a flight to Bagram Air Force Base outside Kabul.

Specialist Blaine Redding was laid to rest on June 22, 2010, at Oak Hill Cemetery, next to his grandfather. Forgoing a formal military burial, attendees honored Blaine by listening to rock music and wearing flip-flops. Specialist Blaine Redding’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Medal, Overseas Service Medal, ISAF NATO Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal. He was also awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

Although her time with Blaine ended much too soon, Nikki takes comfort in the fact that Blaine died doing something he loved with his brothers around him. She feels blessed she married a good man who loved life and oversized everything, whether it was hosting a barbecue for friends, or working out fanatically to stay “big and beautiful” as he called it.

Nikki says that she is thankful for the work that Homes For Our Troops and its Home Award Program did to honor our nation’s wounded and fallen Soldiers. The gift of a mortgage-free home, she says, enabled her to finish her college to become a teacher, a career Blaine had always encouraged her to pursue. Nikki would like to teach high school at a military base, where she feels she could make a difference to students and families dealing with frequent deployments and other stresses. Nikki is also planning to establish a scholarship fund in Blaine’s name.