FORT BENNING, Ga. - A monument to fallen Rangers is running out of space for names. The monument, located inside 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment's compound, is engraved with the names of the battalion's Rangers killed in training accidents and conflicts dating back as far as the early 1980s. An expansion to the monument is part of an effort by the Ranger Assistance Foundation to ensure those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice continue to be remembered.

"War has been going on for quite some time," said Matt Bacik, RAF president, who worries that future names may be left off the monument unless it's expanded.

RAF is an organization providing direct support to the battalion's Rangers and families.
The foundation commissioned a team to design an addition to the monument and is spearheading fundraising efforts, Bacik said.

The project was broken into two phases. Phase one - expansion of the base to meet the immediate need of adding the names of the battalion's recently fallen - is complete.

RAF is raising money to finish phase two, which will cost approximately $150,000.

Though the monument is RAF's current focus, the organization also raises money to help wounded Rangers and families of the fallen.

RAF is staffed and run by volunteers, with three board members and a plethora of appointed officers to help out any way they can, Bacik said.

The idea for the organization came from seeing other battalions with dedicated support organizations.

"We are local and most members served in (3rd Battalion.)," Bacik said. "We are familiar with the challenges Rangers and their families face and we feel we can address them quickly and effectively."

Bacik said the RAF, which banded together in early 2009, has been able to help in 15 instances so far - from arranging travel to memorial ceremonies to supporting family needs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"A lot of times wounded Soldiers may rely on a basket of caregivers to support them - a fiancAfA, parent, cousin, friend - but it's not always that clean cut," said Bacik, speaking of the wounded who don't have spouses or loved ones nearby to care for them. "We bridge the gaps in those instances."

Bacik is a veteran of 3rd Battalion. A former captain, he was medically retired after an injury while he was deployed to Iraq in 2005. His heel was blown off by an improvised explosive device and, months later, his leg was amputated.

His experience led him to find a way to support other wounded Rangers.

"Having been in that position, I saw a lot of ways I could give back if I had the opportunity."

CPL Daniel Sterling, a 3rd Battalion Ranger, was injured in a firefight in Afghanistan in May. An insurgent dropped a grenade near him and the blast sent shrapnel into Sterling's legs, stomach, intestines and spleen. He fractured his kneecap and shin.

"I couldn't walk for two months, my girlfriend was taking care of me - she was pretty much my nurse," Sterling said.

Sterling received a call from Steve Hessler, a RAF board member and a senior manager with Lockheed Martin, not long after he got home. Hessler wanted to know how he could help.

The RAF was able to give Sterling $2,000 to help with groceries and gas as Sterling recovered.

While Sterling appreciated the generosity, he was more grateful to know "somebody out there cares, understands my situation."

How you can help
Donate: Make checks out to the Ranger Assistance Foundation and mail to P.O. Box 6243, Columbus, Ga., 31907 or deposit money into the RAF bucket at Country's BBQ.
Volunteer: A current need is a webmaster, but volunteers are always needed. E-mail
Give: Items for the monument, such as granite, concrete, gravel, sand and landscape materials, and general site work services are appreciated.

Everything you need to know before you go
Big Bass Rodeo fishing tournament to benefit the Ranger Assistance Foundation
2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Lake Oliver City Marina
Entry fee is $100.
E-mail or call (706) 536-6101.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16