Cavalry Soldiers honor fallen comrades
July 3, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE COBRA, Iraq " The sound of taps echoed through the dining facility at Contingency Operating Site Cobra, Iraq, as Soldiers of 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, reflected on memories of two fallen comrades, June 28.
Staff Sergeant Russell Proctor, 25, from Oroville, Calif., and Pfc. Dylan Johnson, 20, a native of Tulsa, Okla., both of Troop C, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regt., 2nd AAB, died from injuries sustained while conducting operations in support of Operation New Dawn in Diyala province, June 26.
Soldiers and friends grieved, shared memories, and celebrated the lives of Proctor and Johnson during the ceremony, said Chaplain (Capt.) Andy Jenks, 4th Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt.
“This is the day we have been given to honor our fallen brothers,” said Jenks.
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Garcia, commander, 4th Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt., asked Soldiers to honor Proctor and Johnson because of the impact they left on the squadron.
“His loss is deep, but his impact on the young troopers of this squadron for generations to come will be lasting,” Garcia said of Proctor.
Garcia said Soldiers in Proctor’s platoon thought Proctor was tough when needed, but always professional and caring of his Soldiers.
“(Proctor) cared for his Soldiers 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Capt. Andrew Eagen, commander, Troop C.
Caring for his Soldiers was half of what made Proctor a great noncommissioned officer, he said.
“Staff Sgt. Proctor was the epitome of an NCO in my mind,” said Eagen. “He was an NCO that knew what right looked like and lived it each day.”
“Staff Sgt. Proctor set the example for every Soldier who knew him,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Boyer, a platoon leader with Troop C. “On the job, he had tactical insight that I still envy.”
In addition to Proctor’s leadership skills, friends also remembered his jovial spirit.
“Above all else, I’ll remember Staff Sgt. Proctor’s sense of humor,” said Boyer. “He could make you laugh. You wouldn’t believe his wit.”
“He would light up any room or situation with his wit and humor,” said Eagen.
Comrades remembered Johnson’s sense of humor as well.
“(Johnson’s) platoon would also say that he was somewhat of a goof … always cracking jokes and trying to keep it light,” said Garcia.
Johnson’s sense of humor was so unique, he even had a facial expression known to his fellow Soldiers as the “Johnson” face, said Pfc. Anthony Santiago, a Pollock Pines, Calif., native, and cavalry scout with Troop C.
Santiago said it was a facial expression that never failed to bring a smile to Soldiers’ faces.
Unit members said humor was part of Johnson’s life, and so was being a Soldier.
“Johnson was known as one of the hardest workers in White Platoon,” said Garcia.
“He was kind, always willing to lend a helping hand,” said Eagen.
Johnson’s kindness and hard work brought a sense of unity within the platoon, said Egan.
“He instantly became a sort of glue amongst the Soldiers in White Platoon,” he said.
“He impacted my life in a way that no one ever has,” said Santiago about Johnson. “I loved him as if he is my own blood.”
Both Proctor and Johnson left great footprints within their unit, said Eagen, and they will be remembered as Soldiers and individuals.
“As we memorialize them today, each will be missed in a different way because of their different experiences, but both will be remembered for their impacts as men,” said Eagen.
Jenks reminded everyone to rejoice in the privilege of knowing them both.
“We rejoice not in the loss we feel, but in the friendship we had with these men,” said Jenks. “While we rejoice, we also grieve. We grieve for our loss.”
Jenks said grief is a demonstration of love, and Proctor and Johnson’s love for their fellow Soldiers builds hope.
“They served their nation and their Families to bring hope " a hope for freedom and a hope for tomorrow,” Jenks said.