Friends, comrades and loved ones of three 10th Sustainment Brigade Soldiers killed Jan. 12 in eastern Afghanistan quietly entered the Main Post Chapel on Thursday to attend a Mountain Remembrance ceremony honoring the fallen warriors.
The Soldiers were Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves, Cpl. Jarrid L. King and Spc. Benjamin G. Moore. All three deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2010 as combat engineers with 693rd Sapper Company, 7th Engineer Battalion.
Also killed in January was Spc. Omar Soltero, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. He will be honored by community members of the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team in Fort Polk, La., where he served.
Following the invocation, a captain who formerly commanded 693rd Sapper Company, 7th Engineer Battalion, reflected on the lives of the three Soldiers he led into Afghanistan last year.
“These were amazing men, who leave a lasting memory,” said Capt. Charles Comfort. “These are memories that we will all cherish. I know the memories that I have of these (Soldiers) I will cherish forever.
“I got to know each of them,” Comfort continued. “The honor of serving with them was mine. As Soldiers, they all shared many of the same outstanding attributes. They were natural leaders. They were leaders who led from the front and cleared the way for others. They did this on every mission, including their final mission.
“Omar, Jarrid, Ben – God bless you,” Comfort finished. “You have cleared a safe path for so many, and I know that you will continue to do so for many who are here today from wherever you are right now.”
Col. Noel T. Nicolle, Fort Drum garrison commander, delivered the keynote address at the gathering. He singled out Family Members of the fallen warriors for his deepest sympathies.
“As you look around the room today, you will see Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves, Cpl. Jarrid King and Spc. Benjamin Moore had an impact on many, many lives,” Nicolle said. “It is you, the Families and loved ones, (who) must bear the heaviest burden.
“I speak for all of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division when I say thank you for your sacrifice and thank you for being here today,” he added. “We are humbled by your presence, and you will always be a part of our family.”
Nicolle cited portions of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to help audience members realize that just like the Soldiers engaged in the Civil War, the three Soldiers killed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom had not died in vain.
“At that time,” Nicolle said, “President Lincoln had led the nation in a war that had cost more than 100,000 lives. He was invited to speak at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, just four months after 7,500 men fought to their deaths on that very stretch of grass.”
A somber Lincoln charged his fellow Americans with honoring the sacrifices of the dead by carrying on their mission and their memories, the colonel said.
“‘It is for us the living, rather,’” Nicolle quoted Lincoln, “‘to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced … that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.’
“It was true then,” Nicolle declared, “and I stand here to assure you, it is true today. Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves, Cpl. Jarrid King and Spc. Benjamin Moore have not died in vain. Their bravery, and ultimately their sacrifice, their last full measure of devotion, give strength to our resolve.
“We are dedicated to their unfinished work that they so nobly advanced. It is, at the same time, the very least, and the very most we can give.
“The memory of your loved ones will forever live on in the hearts of their fellow Soldiers, the lineage of the 10th Mountain Division and the history of our nation,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps, a moment of silence and the benediction.