In this installment of Answer Man, a reader picks up on an interesting fact about retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. Have a question for Answer Man or Answer Woman? Email Executive Editor Karen Chávez at KChavez@citizentimes.com and your question could appear in an upcoming column.
Question: In a Dec. 13 tribute on the Senate floor to Burr, Republican leader Mitch McConnell talked about a bracelet worn daily by Burr with the name of a soldier who was killed in the line of duty. Coverage of the tribute said the soldier was Mitch Carver and that his parents gave it to the senator in 2009 at an Asheville Veterans Day Ceremony. Can you tell me about Carver and the bracelet?
Answer: This picks up on a speech made by McConnell honoring Burr, who served a combined 28 years in the U.S. House and Senate. Burr, of Winston-Salem, was notable for his service as chair of the Intelligence Committee, work on veterans’ issues and perfect rating by the National Rifle Association.
During his successful 2016 reelection campaign, he said if he won he would retire at the end of the six-year term. In 2020 he stepped down as intelligence committee head during an FBI investigation into allegations of insider trading related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That investigation ended with no charges. The next year he was one of seven GOP senators to vote to convict President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial.
McConnell’s speech started this way:
“I’d like to begin my tribute to another of our distinguished departing colleagues by quoting his own words, from a letter written in 2009. ‘Dear Mr. and Mrs. Carver, Thank you for entrusting me with (your son’s) memorial bracelet at the Asheville Veterans Day Ceremony. I wish there had been more time to talk that day. I returned to Washington, DC with the bracelet on my wrist. … (your son’s) unrelenting courage and zeal for life are what I will think of when I look at his name on my wrist. Rest assured that I will wear his bracelet forever.’”
Our archives give the details about Carver, an Erwin High graduate from Leicester, whose parents, Judy and Kyle, said he might have been one of the first soldiers to cross into Iraq during the 2003 invasion, flying a helicopter as part of the “tip of the spear” push toward Baghdad.
Three years later and in his second tour of what was to become an extended war, Carver took off on Jan. 13, 2006, for a combat patrol in an armed OH-58 Kiowa helicopter. The helicopter went down during enemy fire over the northern city of Mosul, killing Carver, 31, and co-pilot Kyle Jackson, 28, of Sarasota, Florida.
A chief warrant officer, Carver was a veteran of tours in Korea and Bosnia before Iraq. He had logged more than 2,000 hours of flight time during nearly 11 years in the Army.
At the time of his death, his father Kyle told the Citizen Times his son loved to fly, especially helicopters, and believed strongly in the war effort − despite growing questions about its purpose.
Reached Dec. 15, two days after McConnell’s speech, Kyle Carver said he and his wife felt honored that his son was remembered on the floor of the nation’s legislature 18 years after his death.
“We still, after all these years, we get all these remembrances. It’s truly touching.”
The efforts made to memorialize Mitch Carver’s life and service included the construction of a children’s park near their home that bears his name. It was one place that Burr visited them, Kyle Carver said. The bracelet was made by a friend of their son’s and they offered it to the senator.
Robin Wilson Ramsey, the former Buncombe GOP chair and now a Western North Carolina field officer for Burr, said in his official picture in the office the bracelet is visible.
“I think it was two or three years ago now Sen. Burr asked me to get him another one because he had worn the first one so much it broke in half,” Ramsey said.
Recently, Erwin created the Ultimate Warrior Award named for Carver that has gone to students with high achievements in academics and athletics.
The couple was unable to attend the latest remembrance ceremony for their son at Fort Drum, New York, where the 10th Aviation Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division in which he served is based. But Kyle Carver said they got a phone call after the ceremony from a man who told them their son was his first flight instructor and that now he commands the unit, working out of renamed “Carver-Jackson Memorial Hall.”
“He said every day when he walks in the building, he touches Mitch’s picture.”
Joel Burgess is an investigative journalist who has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.