August 11 – A day to remember

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(By David Corrigan* – dcorrigan.wordpress.com)

Today is Pedro Brandao Lacerda’s birthday. Pedro was my teacher in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and an older brother to me. On May 29, 2010 Pedro was victim to a brain aneurism while leading a squadron of Army Troops through training. He was immediately brought to the hospital and put on life support but later passed away at the Columbus Regional Medical Center. At Fort Benning, Pedro had become a legend. His Jiu-Jitsu skills, warrior attributes, and charismatic personality were well known all over the base.

In the world of Jiu-Jitsu, Pedro had accomplished much, he was a champion at many levels of Jiu Jitsu competitions (Brazilian Nationals and Pan Americans, to name a couple!) with wins over some of the sports greats such as BJ Penn, Baret Yoshida, and Danial Moraes. More importantly, he had a love for the art and was able to express that love to his students. Both on and off the mat, you could always find a smile on Pedro’s face. In 2010, Pedro led the first Army Rangers Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Team to the Pan Americans.

I met Pedro when I was 13 years old and consider myself one of the luckiest men in the world for being able to spend hours a day training and learning from Pedro, both on and off the mat. My daily routine normally consisted of waking up and going to school, getting picked up from school and going straight to the academy. We (Pedro, my family, and any visitors we had at the time) would train for a couple of hours and then I would stick around and help teach class at night. At the time, I had a blast and these were some of the best years of my life, but I may not have realized quite how good I had it!

Some of my fondest memories with Pedro include:

  • Rolling (obviously);
  • Eating McDonald’s;
  • Eating McDonald’s and training;
  • Eating McDonald’s before a competition;
  • Eating miojo (Ramen Noodles) and Chicken McNuggets;
  • Eating Brazilian barbeque (steak, farofa, molho a campanha);
  • Snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg;
  • Playing chess;
  • Playing Jiu Jitsu chess;
  • Playing paintball;
  • Playing pool at the mountain house;
  • Learning to drive;
  • And building out martial arts academies (three over the course of the few years he lived in Knoxville!)

In 2005, Pedro decided to join the United States Military. The U.S. had provided his family a way to make a living doing what he loves, and after being around a military family for a few years, he decided that that is where he wanted to go next with his life. Pedro went through Basic Training, Airborne School, Ranger Indoc Training, U.S. Army Ranger Training, Warrior Leader Training and Army Combatives Levels 1-3. He became a member of the elite United States Army Rangers and served 3 tours in the Middle East. Pedro was recognized by the Rangers as the most deadly unarmed soldier in the United States Army.

On February 21, 2009 I received my black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Pedro and it is one of the proudest moments of my life!

Pedro continues to live through his wife Marina, daughter Yasmin, son Pepe, brother Marcelo, sister Tatiana, father Pedro and all of the lives he has touched in the Army, on the mats and everywhere in between. We will always miss him.

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