1st Infantry Division honors fallen Soldiers
June 13, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- The light breeze that swirled around Victory Park June 13 carried with it memories of 43 brave 1st Infantry Division Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past year. Memories of a daddy who loved to play video games with his little girl and of a young man who loved to surf and ride horses were released as red felt covers were lifted to reveal the names etched into the park's newest memorial stones.
"This is a special place, this is our hallowed ground," Fort Riley Senior Commander Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie said. "Here we honor those who have fallen and reflect on the strength of those who have gone before us."
The Victory Park Ceremony, conducted annually in conjunction with the division's Victory Week, honors Soldiers who have died while assigned or attached to the 1st Infantry Division during a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The 43 Soldiers honored June 13 served as advisors, security partners, trainers, members of the Devil, Dagger, Duke and Dauntless brigades, and, most simply, as American Soldiers working to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Soldiers will always be remembered in the 1st Infantry Division, we will always celebrate them and their Families," MacWillie said. "They are not forgotten because they will always belong to the Big Red One."
Samantha Cook is grateful for the Big Red One and the Army family that has embraced her since her husband, Spc. Michael Cook died in Iraq June 6, 2011. Although more than a year has passed since her husband was killed in a rocket attack, Samantha said she still feels his presence every day and knows he was with her as his stone was revealed in Victory Park.
"Mike was here today," she said. "They all were here today."
Stephanie Cintron, widow of Spc. Marcos Cintron, said Victory Park will always be a special place for her, a place where she and her family will go to celebrate the great husband and loving father with whom she shared her life.
"We will absolutely come back to the park to honor him," she said. "We will come back as much as we have to."