Friends and Family Members of two fallen 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers gathered Sept. 26 in Memorial Park for a Mountain Remembrance ceremony to honor their loved ones.
Sgt. Derek T. McConnell served as an automatic rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
Sgt. Anthony Maddox served as a petroleum supply specialist and heavy wheeled vehicle operator with 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
After the national anthem and invocation, two Soldiers spoke in honor of each of the fallen warriors.
First Sgt. William R. Collins, 2-87 Infantry, served as McConnell’s platoon sergeant. He remembered McConnell as a Soldier who pursued excellence in all aspects of his life, from his weapons training to his physical fitness. He described McConnell as having an “infectious” personality that positively affected all those around him.
“Through rigorous training, leading up to and including our deployment into Afghanistan, he was always upbeat, he was always smiling,” Collins said.
McConnell was seriously injured in July 2012, during combat operations in Afghanistan. He lost both legs and sustained a number of other injuries, all of them life-threatening.
“As he would many times in the next 20 months, he shocked everybody because he was able to survive it,” Collins said.
Collins recalled watching videos of McConnell’s treatment back in the United States as he and the rest of the platoon finished their deployment in Afghanistan.
“We would watch, huddled around a computer as a platoon, as he spoke from his hospital bed. We were proud as he walked on his first set of prosthetics,” he said. “Sgt. McConnell was proof that anything was possible and achievable. He did not let his injuries define him. He looked at them as a challenge for him to face and overcome.”
“Unfortunately, Sgt. McConnell climbed to eternal glory on (March 18) this year,” Collins said. “He fought bravely on the battlefield and braver still when he returned home. The fight and determination he displayed will inspire men – those who knew him, those who have heard of him – for the rest of our lives.”
First Sgt. Mark W. Taylor, Forward Support Company, 10th Brigade Support Battalion, fondly recalled his time serving with Maddox.
“Having known Anthony for two years, it was my pleasure to get to know this young man as well as (watch) him grow from a young private to a leader of Soldiers,” Taylor said.
Taylor remembered Maddox as a Soldier who always planned for the future. Maddox had aspirations of attending Ranger School, Taylor said. He and a group of his peers developed a plan to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally to attend Ranger School after their deployment to Afghanistan.
“The Soldiers with whom he created the pact will still go to Ranger School, on his behalf, using his memory as an inspiration to graduate from the course,” Taylor said.
“His charisma, loyalty and respect for others made it very easy to love this man,” he said. “We’ll never be able to replace Sgt. Maddox, but we will attempt to improve our lives and live our lives as demonstrated by the great example of Anthony Ranel Maddox.”
Col. Samuel E. Whitehurst, 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander and guest speaker for the event, said that while each of the two Soldiers came from different backgrounds, they had a great deal in common.
“Their similarities are striking, and those similarities capture the spirit of what it means to be a 10th Mountain Division Soldier,” Whitehurst said. “They were both fighters who never gave up. When they set their sights on reaching a goal, there was no obstacle that could stand in their way.
“They both became leaders who made their fellow Soldiers stronger just by their mere presence,” he continued. “Both men were described by those who knew them best as having the ability to make even the toughest situation bearable.”
He urged attendees to honor the memories of McConnell and Maddox by living their lives as they had: leading by example and refusing to let any obstacle stand in the way of achieving their dreams.
“As we celebrate their lives, as we continue to share memories of what they meant to us, and as we induct them forever into this group of fallen warriors that form this hallowed ground to our front, we will ensure that they are never forgotten and that their legacy will continue to have a lasting impact on both the Catamounts, the Summit Battalion, and the 10th Mountain Division,” Whitehurst con-
The ceremony concluded with a three-volley rifle salute, the playing of taps, a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace,” a moment of silence and the benediction.