CHILD ORPHANED BY DRUNK DRIVER NOW LOSES GRANDPA: Nathaniel Britt and his grandpa, retired Master Sgt. Ronald Lee, release a balloon Nov. 11, 2010, to celebrate his mother’s birthday. Tech. Sgt. Audra Britt was killed by a drunk driver in April 2009. Lee died of a stroke Sept. 24. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Bendet)

by Tim Barela
Torch Magazine

12/1/2011 - SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- He lost his mom and dad to a drunk driver at age 4. Now at age 7, Nathaniel Britt has lost one of his legal guardians ... his grandfather, Ronald Lee.

Lee, a 57-year-old retired master sergeant, died Sept. 24, six weeks after suffering a stroke. Nathaniel appeared on the cover of the March/April 2011 issue of Torch, in a feature that detailed the deaths of his parents, Tech. Sgts. Maurice and Audra Britt, who were both stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. They had been killed by a drunk driver who smashed his truck into their motorcycle April 5, 2009. The drunk driver, who had been driving 65 mph the wrong way into on-coming traffic in Austin, Texas, was arrested and ultimately sent to prison to serve a 20-year sentence for intoxication manslaughter and another five years for fleeing the scene.

"This has been a very traumatic experience for all of us because no one saw this coming, just like when my sister and brother-in-law died," said Staff Sgt. Aron Lee, Ronald's son and Nathaniel's uncle who got a humanitarian assignment to Lackland to help his parents raise Nathaniel after he was orphaned. "It was a bad case of déjà vu."

Aron counts his dad as another victim of the drunk driver.

"The death of my sister definitely played a role in my father's demise -- I'd bet money on it," Aron said. "It's no secret that Dad never got over Audra's death. He always carried a piece of it with him. It weighed heavy on his heart and mind."

Ronald would have celebrated his 58th birthday Nov. 2, as well as 40 years of marriage to his wife, Carol, Dec. 31.

Aron said his nephew took his grandpa's death pretty hard.

"Nathaniel was extremely sad when we broke the news to him. He immediately started praying. ... He tearfully asked God not to let any more of his family go," said Aron, who, in a case of bad timing, also will soon have to leave his nephew in San Antonio as he reports to his new assignment at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 6.

"Nathaniel is holding up OK," the staff sergeant added. "He's a very strong young man. But we watch him closely; because with something this traumatic, you never know what the short- and long-term effects will be for someone so young."