Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOIC
“Polar Bears” of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team gathered Monday on Fort Drum to remember two Soldiers still missing from their ranks after a terrorist attack one year ago near Qarghuli Village, Iraq.
Members of the 31st Infantry Regiment Association attended the ceremony to present the battalion with a statuette – the boots, upright rifle and helmet that symbolize a fallen Soldier – in honor of the missing and fallen.
Pfc. Byron Fouty and Sgt. Alex Jimenez, both of D Company, 4-31 Infantry, were part of a patrol on Route Malibu near the village. The humvees were attacked at about 4:45 a.m. Five other 4-31 Infantry Soldiers were killed in or just after the attack, along with an Iraqi soldier who was with the patrol.
Pfc. Vincent DeFrank, a gunner with B Company, 4-31 Infantry, accepted the statuette from regiment veteran Jack Considine, who served with the 31st Infantry in Korea.
“I was really honored to accept such an award for the battalion,” said DeFrank. “I’m only a private, and they chose me to go up there. It was really meaningful for me, and I think it was even more meaningful for the Soldiers who were (in Iraq) longer than I was. These are our brothers who are missing, and we still hope they get home safely.”
Considine, who left the regiment after the war ended, spent his nine-month tour in Korea as a specialist, but is a staunch member of the association.
“When we saw what had happened, we said, ‘They deserve this for what they did,’” Considine said. “We always care about the Soldiers of the regiment, and I really enjoy being up here with these guys.”
Ron Corson commanded A Company, 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, in Vietnam, and retired as a colonel. He now serves as commander of the regiment’s 1,200-plus membership. The organization hopes that being involved with Soldiers who currently serve in the regiment will help them build strong bonds.
The association has members who were in the Bataan death march as well as those who saw combat in Korea, Vietnam and now the war on terrorism.
“It took Vietnam veterans about 30 years to start attending reunions,” said Corson, who hopes to avoid that situation. “Every year, the numbers grow. Soldiers in combat have a relationship; there’s a bond with the unit that they didn’t share with anyone else.”
An official award was given a few months ago, but the ceremony was postponed until the anniversary of the attack.
“The membership came up with the idea … and we decided this was a fitting time to do it, a good time to present it publicly,” Corson said.
“It’s important that the unit pause and acknowledge this day,” said Sonny Mitchell, former command sergeant major of the battalion. “It impacted a lot of lives, and the heart and soul of this battalion. It’s one of those things we have to remember.
“The lives of two Soldiers who stepped up to serve the country should be acknowledged,” Mitchell added. “But the great Americans who serve give others the ability to go through their day without thinking about the cruelty and ugliness of war.”
The statuette, while a small token, is a symbol of the continuity of the 31st Infantry.
“We’re passing on the memories and the history,” Mitchell said. “That’s the lifeblood of the unit.”