USASMA Class 58 pays tribute to fallen comrade, colleague at ADA NCO academy
May 15, 2008
FORT BLISS, Texas (May 8, 2008) - Senior noncommissioned officers attending the Sergeants Major Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy visited the Fort Bliss NCO academy May 8 to remember one of their own killed in Iraq in 2003.
During a ceremony held at the Air Defense Artillery Center Noncommissioned Officer Academy, the Class 58 students honored Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Blankenbecler, a native of Alexandria, Va., by unveiling a plaque that was added to the room already named for him. He had been a commandant at the NCO academy as well as a graduate of Sergeants Major Course Class 53, and a loving husband and father.
Blankenbecler was 40 when he died Oct 1, 2003, after being hit by an improvised explosive device and rocket propelled grenades in Samarra, Iraq. The 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas, command sergeant major was conducting a convoy mission at the time of the attack.
"We cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Hall, the Air Defense Artillery NCO academy commandant. "As the song goes, 'all gave some and some gave all.' Command sergeant major Blankenbecler and his family gave all and will not be forgotten."
The room - a classroom being used to train Soldiers for their role as future leaders - was dedicated to Blankenbecler and presented to his family a year after his death. The room displays pictures, awards and a dress blue uniform. Blankenbecler's awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal.
"I think each time I do (this remembrance), it gives me a special feeling on the inside," said USASMA Class 58 student Sgt. Maj. Rufus Phelps III, a former deputy commandant at the NCO Academy from 2006 to 2007. "Knowing we lost a great senior noncommissioned officer and the sacrifices he gave, it just makes it even more precious for me to just stand here and say I am walking in the same shoes that this man has already been in. Since I am at the rank of sergeant major now, it makes it even more special."
The ceremony included a moment of silence with chimes and the playing of Taps.
"The free air we breathe is a product of the blood they shed," said Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Tony H. Purdy. "On this day, we not only remember the fallen Soldiers, we remember those who came home with lasting scars [from] war and badges of courage. ... Freedom is a precious gift given to the rest of us at a great cost."