Battling Bruin: Ian

Posted February 2014

The struggles of eking out a reasonable manner of living in the utter chaos of war are often concurrent with many other battles, proverbial ones, personal ones, the ones involved in trying to keep family and friends both whole and wholesome. Any soldier overseas is always fighting, at bare minimum, a war with two distinct theatres; one political, the other personal. The women and men who return home from the warfronts abroad often find themselves besieged with tribulations abound - if, that is, they are fortunate enough to return alive in the first place or if they have a home in which to return. They bear the scars of both battles. One such young man is Ian Coleman.

Ian was born the youngest of three in a poor, single parent household and was raised in an old, Southern “shotgun” house in an alleyway of Pensacola, Fla. known as the Tan Yard. Back in 2009, upon graduating from high school, Ian enlisted in the United States Army with the hope of earning money for college while fulfilling the ambition of serving his country. He was deployed to the destitute and war-torn province of Kandahar, Afghanistan back in 2010 as an artillery specialist. Midway into his tour of duty, he received word that his mother had been diagnosed with Stage IV soft-tissue sarcoma - an uncommon, malignant tumor originating in the soft tissues of the body - and that her prognosis was poor. The devastating announcement of her illness coincided with his two-week reprieve from combat, so when he arrived back in the States, he immediately began helping his older brothers take care of the ailing matriarch - one of whom is a UCLA graduate student.

His days were spent driving his mother to her slew of doctor appointments and radiation treatments; his nights were spent cooking, cleaning and watching over her. In the end, he was left with no other option but to leave the care of his mother to his older siblings while he returned to the combat zone in Afghanistan. The regimen of radiation treatment and chemotherapy ultimately did nothing to stave off the cancerous assault on her body: it had already covered a substantial portion of her lungs, making oxygen exchange difficult without the aid of a respiratory. Ian was once again in to the combat zone when he received yet another fateful call from his brothers: his mother had instructed her sons that in the event she were to ever require the assistance of machine for sustenance that she should be removed from it immediately. It came time to honor her wishes. She passed away Oct. 5, 2010.

No warm homecoming awaited Ian when he returned home from Afghanistan: there were no warm hugs, no tears, no home cooked meals. He swore he would make the best of a dismal situation. Upon finishing his term in the Army, he moved to Houston to live with a maternal uncle and continue his education. He maintains strength through sacrifice; power through patience and perseverance - characteristics of a mighty Bruin.

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