Pathfinders, Gold Star Families honor fallen to kick off Memorial Day weekend
May 24, 2012
For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend is a time to gather around barbecue pits, visit the beach for the first time that year, or just plain take advantage of some extra time off. For six Families and a company of Soldiers, Memorial Day will always be more than that.
The Pathfinders of 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, welcomed around 30 Gold Star Family members to Fort Campbell May 24 as they honored their six fallen Soldiers who were killed in southern Afghanistan May 26, 2011, by dedicating the unit's headquarters building on Fort Campbell in their memory.
1st Lt. John M. Runkle Jr., Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman, Staff Sgt. Edward D. Mills Jr., Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall, Sgt. Louie RamosVelazquez and Spc. Adam J. Patton were killed during a mission in the Shorbak province of Afghanistan when an intricate series of IEDs detonated near their location. Also killed in the blasts were two Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians and two Afghan National Civil Order Police SWAT members.
"They embodied their selfless, storied motto, 'First in, Last out,'" said Lt. Col. Clair Gill, the 4th Bn., 101st Avn. Rgt., commander during the ceremony.
Gill led off the series of speakers whose words and tributes generated a smattering of laughter amongst the audience, breaking up the ever-present silent tears on the faces of wives, children, parents and friends.
"We lost men that we not only considered friends, but were our brothers," said Capt. Mark Herlick, the Pathfinder company commander . "It's often difficult when trying to explain to not only civilians, but to non-infantry personnel why we chose this profession in combat arms … the bottom line comes to we do it for the men to our left and right."
A current Pathfinder paid tribute to each of the fallen Soldiers, sharing personal stories, inside jokes and the lasting impressions each left on the lives of others.
"He set the example of leadership that I will follow throughout my army career and the rest of my life," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Thornton of Osman.
Thornton's words were echoed by many of the other Soldiers, but perhaps most moving of all the presentations was that of Timothy Bohall, Thomas' father, who spoke just before Sgts. Jon McMillen and Brian Evans unveiled the dedication plaque that will adorn the building.
"I will still spend time with family and friends this holiday; I will still recharge the batteries," Bohall said. "But I will also spend some time in quiet solitude, remembering all of the fallen, including my son … I, like you, must travel my own road of grief, find my own path to acceptance of this terrible loss, make my own way back to normalcy. But even though I must do this myself, I have learned that I need not do it alone."