Remembering fallen Alabama heroes on Memorial Day

Updated: May. 30, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT
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PRATTVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - Carlos Pernell, Stephen Bicknell and Nicholas Hensley.

All three men were from Prattville, joined the Army and gave their lives for our country.

Army Sgt. Carlos Pernell

Army Sgt. Carlos Pernell joined the military to help pay for college. The Prattville native planned to complete a degree in criminal justice, but Pernell never got to fulfill his dream.

June 6, 2006, Pernell died in Iraq. He was 25.

“I told him I was gonna miss him and I loved him. And one day we are going to meet up,” recalls Pernell’s sister Leatricia Motley.

Pernell’s awards include the purple heart and bronze star. Military officials told Pernell’s family that his directed medics to treat his fellow soldiers before helping him.

“He wasn’t worried about himself. He was worried about his soldiers. He always took care of his people,” says Motley.

Pernell left behind his mother, two sisters, his wife and 1-year-old daughter. He had just been home six weeks earlier to celebrate his daughter’s first birthday. It was his second tour of duty.

“They sent each person a dog tag with his picture on it. When I feel when I need to feel him, I put it on,” says Motley.

His family will never forget the impact Pernell had on their lives, and on this Memorial Day. They ask that you, too, remember his sacrifice and that of so many other soldiers who gave all for our country.

Motley asks that you, “find their resting place, take them a flag, take them a wreath take them some flowers or something and put it on their grave.”

Army Pfc. Stephen Bicknell

Pfc. Stephen Bicknell was just 19 when he died in Iraq.

“He was on a night patrol and the Humvee that he was driving hit two IEDs,” says Miranda Bicknell.

Miranda Bicknell and Stephen married not long before he deployed to Iraq.

Miranda remembers “the last time that we had together I told him, I said, promise me you’ll come home. And he said, I can’t promise you that and you know that. So of course, I cried. And he said, Okay, how about this, he said, I promise I’ll come home one way or the other.”

Four months later, Stephen Bicknell returned home in a flag draped coffin. Miranda was pregnant at the time.

She says, “It was hard, but honestly, it’s probably the only thing that got me through. I look back and I think, you know, this kid has probably saved me in more ways than he will ever know.”

Their son, named after his father, is now 14. He is the spitting image of the father he never met.

Stephen says, “It’s hard because you can’t just really, one person on this earth that can tell you that, you know, knowing your father, and losing him is a lot harder than not knowing him and losing them. So it’s hard.”

Miranda says of her son, “He acts a lot like him. He obviously looks just like him. I think he’d be very proud of the young man that he is today.”

Miranda shares stories about the great man his father was. Stephen Bicknell chose to join the nation’s fight in the war on terror.

“He was at the University of West Alabama first semester playing on that football scholarship, and he wanted to do more with his life,” Miranda said.

He gave that life for our country. On this Memorial Day, Miranda and her son hope you will remember his sacrifice and that freedom isn’t free.

“I want people to teach your children ‘what does this day mean.’ Say their names tell their stories. I’m not saying don’t have a good time, you know, Stephen was all about living life and loving life, so go out with your friends and family, have a good time, but take a moment of your day to tell their stories and to say their names,” adds Miranda.

Army Spc. Nicholas Hensley

It has been 10 years since Joan Hensley lost her son, Army Spc. Nicholas Hensley, but the memories are still fresh.

“It seems you know, long ago, also. And it seems like yesterday, because all the memories are very vivid,” Joan said.

On June 15, 2011, Nicholas was gravely wounded in Afghanistan after stepping on an explosive device. He was eventually transferred to a hospital in Germany for treatment. The military flew his parents, wife, and sister to Germany to be with him.

“He wasn’t going to survive. So we all had an hour with him. One big family reunion around his bed. He never regained consciousness. But it was a great family reunion that was never going to be again,” says Joan.

Joan remembers the last thing she said to her son.

“How much I love him. And this is gonna sound goofy, but I told him Nicholas when you meet God, you don’t turn your back on him. When you leave his presence, you bow and you go backwards. I know he met God. I know he’s with God.”

Their faith has been a source of comfort for the Hensleys who keep pictures of their son all around their home. The photos remind them of his love, service, and sacrifice.

“Nick did two tours in Iraq, and then the third one to Afghanistan. He knew his time was numbered. He knew he wasn’t gonna come back.”

Nick made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. On Memorial Day, Joan hopes Americans remember all those who paid the same price.

“What scares a parent more, when they’ve lost a child under any circumstance, is they’ll be forgot. You know, there was an entity here, there was somebody here and he took up space, and he breathed our air, and he’s not anymore. All gave some and some gave all.”

The city of Prattville is honoring its hometown fallen heroes with banners with their names and pictures around downtown. Those banners will be up through June. Take time to go by and pay your respects.

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