Families, friends and fellow comrades of three fallen 10th Mountain Division (LI) warriors attended a remembrance ceremony held Thursday at Fort Drum’s Memorial Park in their Soldiers’ honor.
“This ceremony is a tribute, a tribute to those who have given all in support of our nation,” said Col. Michael T. Oeschger, 3rd Brigade Combat Team rear commander.
The Soldiers were Sgt. Shawn M. Farrell II, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, and Spc. Kerry M.G. Danyluk and Spc. Christian J. Chandler, both with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT. Each of the Soldiers was killed as a result of small-arms fire during an enemy attack.
The Spartan Brigade has been deployed to Afghanistan since last year.
After the national anthem and an invocation, three Soldiers who knew the fallen troops took turns offering moving tributes for their comrades.
Having served as Farrell’s squad leader in combat and his platoon sergeant in garrison, Sgt. 1st Class Michael I. Mazingo stood before the crowd and testified that Farrell was a model infantryman who put his men first and found a silver lining in every situation.
“I am still in awe by the (number) of people who knew him and by the (number) of lives he touched,” Mazingo said. “For me, personally, ‘Shawny’ was bigger than this life, because he lived every day to the fullest.
“I am proud to have been his leader,” he continued, “to watch him grow as a Soldier and a man. Shawn himself was the very definition of a leader … (and he) was what every infantryman should strive to be – to include myself.”
Mazingo, who drew a chuckle from tearful Family Members when referring to himself as “Batman’s platoon sergeant,” concluded his remarks by saying he hoped to be “half the man” of Farrell.
“He was and will always be a hero – to me and to everyone he led or followed,” he said.
After Mazingo’s tribute, Spc. Michael J. Reinert addressed the crowd.
“It is difficult to capture the essence of a man such as Kerry Danyluk in a mere speech, especially one in just two minutes,” he began.
Reinert first met Danyluk a little over a year ago. He said he was immediately drawn to the expert sniper, whose tactical skills captured the attention of the entire platoon.
“We would joke that he didn’t need a sniper rifle,” Reinert said. “All he needed was his M4 and 9 mm, as he could accurately and consistently engage targets at 900 meters with his M4 and hit
what he wanted with his 9 mm at 100 meters. It was amazing to watch.”
Reinert said just as remarkable as his marksmanship was Danyluk’s modest but gritty and down-to-earth demeanor.
“I know he didn’t realize or see it in himself, but Kerry was a natural teacher, a quiet professional who (led) from the front with action,” he said. “(He was) the type of guy who said ‘Follow me’ when things got messy. You wouldn’t think twice about following that man anywhere.
“He was always convincing us that we were so much more capable than we thought,” he added. “When our confidence failed us, Kerry was there to inspire us.”
Reinert struggled to find words of consolation for Danyluk’s mother in the audience.
“I can’t imagine how hard it is,” he said, “but please know you have adopted 18 more sons who are here whenever you need us.”
To pay tribute to Chandler, Staff Sgt. Steven F. Kovac IV took his place in front of the crowd.
He said shortly after Chandler checked into 2-87 Infantry about a year and a half ago, it became evident that the Texas native had a work ethic consistent with growing up and working on the family farm.
Kovac said Chandler never backed down from a challenge. Even during difficult machine-gunner training, Chandler kept a positive attitude and flashed his “infectious smile” whenever Kovac checked in on him.
He said throughout his deployment to Afghanistan, Chandler continued to keep his enthusiasm up, eager and willing to help the platoon in any way that he could.
“Looking back,” Kovac said, “I don’t recall a moment that he did not have a smile on his face, nor do I remember a moment where his humor faltered.
“Spc. Chandler, affectionately known to friends and Family as ‘Jake,’ will be greatly missed within the Catamount Family,” he concluded.
After the tributes, the ceremony's guest speaker asked a question that he said he and others often struggle to answer: “Why?”
“I wish that I was able to answer that unanswerable question,” Oeschger said.
“I can't answer why,” he said, “but I believe I can answer how. How did they die? They died in the service of their country. They died in the service of their friends. They died in the service of their battle buddies. And, most importantly, they died as Soldiers.
“It is the life they chose,” he continued. “What an incredibly noble and honorable calling they chose. They were Soldiers, doing what Soldiers do and have always done.”
Oeschger went on to thank the Families of the fallen Soldiers for raising good men and for bearing an “unbearable” loss.
He noted that Farrell, Danyluk and Chandler are names that are now forever a part of the U.S. Army, the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and the Spartan Brigade.
“(They) will walk with us through history, and we are proud to have them by our side,” he said.
“They have made a lasting and indelible impact,” Oeschger concluded. “They have made a difference. And their legacy is sitting in this ceremony and standing in this ceremony for the world to appreciate, admire and aspire to.”
As the ceremony came to a close, audience members stood for the rendering of honors, the playing of taps, a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace” and the benediction.
The event concluded with Family Members spending time before large images of their fallen Soldiers in front of the Military Mountaineers Monument.