549th MP Co Honors Their Own
July 23, 2009
<b>FORT STEWART, Ga.-</b> Honoring their fallen comrades, the 549th Military Police Company, 385th Military Police Battalion held a tree dedication ceremony, July 16 at Warrior's Walk at Fort Stewart.
Specialist Roberto A. Hernandez, 21, and Spc. Jonathan C. O'Neill, 22, were killed when an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle in the province of Pakidiaon.
Major General Tony Cucolo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, recounted the event and spoke on the quality of both Soldiers.
"Both were fine Soldiers, superb combat military police, both willing to lead the way for their units," said Maj. Gen. Cucolo. "It takes guts to drive, as Spc. O'Neill did, and to be the gunner, as Spc. Hernandez did, in the lead truck on combat patrols in Afghanistan."
They had the calm and the edge to react to a Family on their way to market or to be the first to react to enemy contact, said Maj. Gen. Cucolo, knowing that the three or more vehicles behind them were counting on them for everything they saw and everything they said.
After the ceremony, Paulina Richards, mother of Spc. Hernandez, addressed her son's platoon.
She mentioned how several of her son's fellow Soldiers told her that her son was always laughing and yet always charging them to be better Soldiers, better people.
She also reassured the unit that the tears that they saw on her and her Family's faces were not tears of the fact he is gone, but only because of the fact that they will miss him.
They know that he is watching over them and the unit right now.
"My Family and I would like to thank you for being his extended family," said Richards. "We couldn't be out there with him in Afghanistan. For you just being there for him, we thank you."
The ceremony wasn't all tears, however. Maj. Gen. Cucolo reminded the attendees that the day was about remembrance as well. Every tree and every stone on Warriors Walk tells a story, and when someone stands in front of each, there is a memory, a spirit, the very image of an American Soldier who is also a person, an individual, whose individuality makes him or her that much more special to the Army Family, he said.
"Tonight is also part closure and part commitment," said Maj. Gen. Cucolo. "Closure by knowing that placing their names on this hallowed ground with their 418 brothers and sisters who deployed and did not return that they will never be forgotten.
"Perhaps that every American that strolls past their tree for years to come will read the names of Spc. Robert Hernandez and Spc. Jonathan O'Neill and listen carefully for their story and perhaps whisper, 'Thank you.'
"And commitment for all of us to leave this ceremony determined to live our own lives worthy of their great sacrifice. Lest we forget."