Sgt. Steven Peterson
10th Mountain Division Journalist
Friends, comrades and Family Members gathered June 27 in Memorial Park to honor the memories of fallen Soldiers who died in support of the war efforts overseas.
One hundred and seventy-one Family Members representing 46 of the fallen warriors attended the annual ceremony to remember those who have died in past years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We pause to remember those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our nation and her ideals,” said Lt. Col. John Kallerson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) chaplain. “When the need was greatest, they stepped forward and performed their duty, defending the freedoms that we enjoy today while earning the same for others.”
This past year, 52 Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division (LI) died while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Their names were placed on a plaque that Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, division senior enlisted adviser; retired Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, and retired Col. Michael Plummer unveiled during the ceremony.
After the plaque unveiling, Milley addressed the friends and Families who attended the ceremony.
“Together the community, the Families, the friends and the Soldiers who served with your loved ones will never forget our fallen heroes,” Milley said. “All of us that have served in combat have sacrificed some, but 295 Soldiers who marched in the ranks of the 10th Mountain Division have sacrificed all, and we are here today to honor them.”
Milley went on to thank the Families and Soldiers for knowing the full meaning of devotion and for making the trip to Fort Drum to show their support.
Once Milley had finished, he introduced retired Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, former 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum commander, who gave thanks to the Gold Star Families in attendance.
“Our real VIPs today are the friends and Families of the fallen Soldiers that we are here to honor today,” Hagenbeck said. “This community has not and will not forget those who have fought for our freedom and who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
Hagenbeck went on to talk about the past, present and future of the Army.
“Regardless of what lies ahead, we cannot forget the Soldiers that have fought for us over these past 10 1/2 years, especially those that gave the last full measure,” he added. “They are absolutely the best that American has to offer. They are the one percent. They are the ones that, when it really mattered, stepped up and said ‘send me.’”
Attendees were then asked to stand for the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, the playing of “Amazing Grace” and a moment of silence.
The names of the 52 fallen Soldiers are as follows:
Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves, Cpl. Jarrid L. King, Spc. Benjamin G. Moore, Spc. Omar Soltero, Sgt. Ethan C. Hardin, Pfc. Ira B. Laningham IV, Spc. Rudolph R. Hizon, Staff Sgt. Travis M. Tompkins, Spc. Andrew P. Wade, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Terry L. Varnadore II, Sgt. Paul J. Atim, Pfc. John F. Kihm, Cpl. Preston J. Dennis, Spc. Joel A. Ramirez, Cpl. Charles J. Wren, Sgt. Keith T. Buzinski, Pfc. Brandon T. Pickering, Staff Sgt. Matthew D. Hermanson, Pfc. Jonathan M. Villanueva, Pfc. John C. Johnson, Spc. Richard C. Emmons III, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kenneth R. White, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bradley J. Gaudet, Spc. Nicholas P. Bernier, Pfc. Brian J. Backus, Staff Sgt. Michael J. Garcia, Sgt. Christopher P. Soderlund, Spc. James A. Waters, Spc. Kevin R. Shumaker, 1st Lt. Timothy J. Steele, Sgt. Andrew R. Tobin, Spc. Jesse W. Dietrich, Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman, Spc. Mark J. Downer, Spc. Patrick L. Lay II, Spc. Jordan M. Morris, Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez, Spc. Gil I. Morales Del Valle, Pfc. Cody G. Baker, Spc. Dennis James Jr., Spc. Koran P. Contreras, Spc. Douglas J. Jeffries Jr., 1st Lt. Andres Zermeno, Sgt. Rafael E. Bigai Baez, Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio, 1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks, Staff Sgt. Nathan L. Wyrick, Staff Sgt. Ari R. Cullers, Spc. Jeremiah T. Sancho, Pfc. Theodore B. Rushing and Pfc. Jackie L. Diener II.
After the ceremony was over, all of those who came to remember the fallen Soldiers were welcome to view the plaque and share stories of their loved ones.