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Lynda Simmons

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The light of a distant star continues to reach the earth long
after the star itself is gone.
In the same way, the light and love you gave will continue
to shine in many hearts.
Petty Officer Brian Eddie Colletti
Aug. 2, 1979 ~ July 25, 2004
     On July 25, 2004 my son, Brian Eddie Colletti was senselessly murdered. The above verse is inscribed on his marker where he is buried. He was a Petty Officer for the United States Coast Guard, finishing up his first 6 years, had just re-enlisted for 6 more years, recently increased his rank, earning a much deserved bonus, and had completed qualifications to command the 47' Lifesaving boat, at the age of 24, the youngest to accomplish this.

     Brian was loved and respected by all who knew him. He had the unique gift of compassion, loving others unconditionally came easily to him. He was considered a peacemaker by his friends, dependable and reliable by his shipmates and co-workers, with a positive, easy going personality, always caring and offering encouragement to others. Brian was a good and respectful son, loved his family very much, was his oldest brother's best friend and a mentor to his younger brother, a cherished grandson and nephew, a fun-loving uncle and brother-in-law, a dedicated godfather to his shipmate and friend's daughter, a devoted friend, he was someone who filled many roles in the lives of so many people.

     Brian was in the first graduating class at Northwood Temple Academy. Class of 1997. He was the captain of the basketball team, voted Most Athletic, and voted one of the Senior Superlatives, 'best of the best' in areas of athletics and friendliness. Brian always received the 'Good Citizen' award all through grade school. Brian's greatest passion was basketball. He loved to play and play he did, wherever he went. When he entered the Coast Guard and arrived at his first station, Oregon Inlet, Nags Head, NC, he quickly began gathering up others to play ball. He organized games and he could always be found shooting ball at the station while on break. In September 2003, Brian transferred to Station Ocean City, MD. Again, he found others to shoot ball with and quickly became known for his passion for basketball! One of Brian's shipmates shared how she met Brian one day while they were on duty together. He was shooting baskets and she decided to join him. However, she knew nothing about basketball, but that didn't discourage her shipmate 'Eddie' (the name all his Coast Guard buddies called him). He spent the next 3 hours teaching her how to play. While doing this they engaged in conversation, sharing about hopes and dreams. Brian told her how he hoped to coach and mentor children one day when he retired from the Coast Guard. He hoped to show kids other opportunities and teach them alternatives to coping with life's difficulties rather than turning to the horrors of the world. He had some of his own personal experience to pull from. Brian had overcome many obstacles and difficulties of his own in life. He knew how easy it was to give in to peer pressure and go down a path that leads to destruction. He also learned in his own life that there is always a choice about which path to choose, and how to choose the better road. Sadly the very thing he hoped to prevent in the lives of others is what took his life. As a Petty Officer in the USCG, he worked with Search and Rescue; he was a lifesaver... Yet in a cruel twist of irony an 18-year-old stranger, who obviously made some poor choices in life and was trodden down the wrong road, took his life.

     Why? I asked that question a million times, knowing I would never get an answer. There is no answer, at least not one that would satisfy me. I now ask what? What can I do with this God? How can I help you to bring good out of this tragedy? I believe when this young man shot my son, that God hung his head and cried, for he lost 2 children at that moment. God did not kill my son, an 18-year-old man killed him, evil killed him, a bullet killed him, no matter how you look at it, the end result is still the same. I know my son is safe in the arms of Jesus, and I pray for the man who shot him, along with his friends, one of which who was also charged with accessory to murder after the fact. I pray for them to seek God's forgiveness. I pray for God to help me to forgive, which I do. I do not harbor hate in my heart and I know that my son would want me to forgive, because he would forgive. Sometimes I think if only these kids knew Brian, that boy would have never shot him. He would have liked him! To kill someone over what was described as a verbal altercation is hard to swallow. The group of boys ran their mouth at some of Brian's friends, who then engaged in the verbal altercation that quickly escalated into violence. Brian's role was to try to calm people down, to get the group to back off and walk away, but that was not to be the case. The 18 year old retrieved a gun from the trunk of his car and shot it. Whether he was aiming for Brian or not, I will probably never know, but that is where the bullet went, through my son's chest, entering under his left arm. He was not even facing the man, he was probably about 3 to 4 feet away from him, he had no type of weapon, neither did his friends, but for whatever reason, this young man felt the need to pull a gun and shoot it. There were 9 people in his group and about 6 or 7 in Brian's group. Brian never threatened anyone, didn't assault anyone; he simply tried to stop the fighting. This all took place within a matter of a few minutes, start to finish. The reason my son is gone is because an 18 year old, who was already on probation for a drug charge, had a gun. Unfortunately Brian was the recipient of the bullet. Brian died trying to stop violence, for that and many other reasons I will always be very proud of him.

     As a way of honoring Brian and helping others, a 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament known as DUNKFAN was started at Northwood Temple Academy. The money raised at this event is for The Brian Colletti Memorial Endowment Fund created to provide 2 partial scholarships to benefit students at the Academy. This is an annual event, currently being held the 1st Saturday in October. I can think of no better way to give tribute to Brian than by doing something that was near and dear to his heart, playing basketball. I hope that many will benefit simply from the experience of this day which is meant for helping someone while having fun, practicing good sportsmanship, learning to respect each other and cultivating an attitude of peace, love and faith. This is also an opportunity for many whose hearts are still burdened and heavy with grief over the loss of Brian Eddie Colletti to do something Brian loved and to attempt to bring good things out of our horrible tragedy. My hope is this will help others to ease their pain and renew their own spirit of compassion, giving, peace and love.

     After organizing and creating DUNKFAN, I still felt there was something more I had to do. I felt God nudging me and leading me to finally create the Brian Eddie Foundation, Inc. In response to my personal grief and to the overwhelming violence that goes on every day in our communities, I knew there was a need and it's my hope that the foundation will be a way to meet some of the brokenness in the world. I'm committed to helping to bring about an atmosphere of peace and oneness within the community in an effort to make our streets safer and kinder. What happened to my son could happen to anyone's child. None of us are immune from the horrors of this world but if the Brian Eddie Foundation, Inc. can reach just one person and make a difference in that life, then hundreds of other lives will be impacted as a result. There's too much hate, anger and unforgiveness in our world. My prayer is to change that and to reach out to others and share love, forgiveness and peace with them. I truly believe that my tragedy, Brian's tragedy can be the beginning of someone else's blessing. I believe God will bring good out of all the bad we have suffered and I believe that sharing my experience to help others is what he wants me to do. Brian had dreams and goals for his life which included helping young people to do the right thing. His dream has become my dream. Healing Communities, Embracing Peace and Transforming Lives; that's my dream and my passion today. And I have faith that God will make a way to realize this dream.

     Brian touched so many hearts as he wove his threads through the lives of others; adding to God's tapestry; stitches that will never be unraveled, but will continue to weave through the lives of all who knew and loved him. He will never be forgotten; his spirit lives on as we pass along the love he so freely gave us, and we in turn will freely give it to others.
Peace & Blessings~
Lynda Simmons
Brian Colletti's mother

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