RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- More than 30 Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, were selected to serve as the color guard, pallbearers and firing detail for the memorial service of Medal of Honor recipient Walter D. Ehlers on March 8.
Ehlers served in the 18th "Vanguard" Infantry Regiment during the D-Day landings and the subsequent Normandy campaign, earning the Medal of Honor for his actions in June 1944 near Goville, France. He always had an affinity for the regiment, now part of the 2nd ABCT, or "Dagger" brigade, and the "Big Red One."
"He loved that division," Dorothy Ehlers, Ehlers' wife, said. "He always thought it was the tops."
The color guard Soldiers hailed from 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, and 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, while the pallbearers were all from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment. The firing detail was comprised of Soldiers from 2nd ABCT's Special Troops Battalion.
"I felt very honored, just as with all the other funerals we have done," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Madron, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the firing detail and a San Bernardino, Calif., native. "I've always felt honored to render a tribute to Soldiers and former Soldiers."
Due to Ehlers' huge impact and heroic legacy, the "Dagger" Soldiers knew the ceremony would be a bit different.
"It feels a little overwhelming," Madron said before the ceremony. "We want to do a really good job, and I understand there are a lot of eyes on us. But we have been preparing and practicing and I've got my Soldiers ready to go and we?'re here to do our duty."
Preparations began back at Fort Riley, but increased when the detail arrived in Southern California. The Soldiers conducted rehearsal after rehearsal to ensure everything was ready.
"It's the kind of situation where you want to make sure that everything is right," Sgt. Thomas Campbell, a tanker with 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., and Old Bridge, N.J., native who was responsible for holding the 18th Regiment colors during the ceremony. "Not that it would be different for anyone else, but it's even more important considering who the individual was."
Despite hot afternoon temperatures and a punishing sun, each Soldier performed his duty well to ensure Ehlers was laid to rest in the most fitting way possible.
"I think it went outstanding," Campbell said. "Everyone performed exactly as they were expected to, and I am really proud to actually be a part of it."
Following the service, the Soldiers were invited to visit Ehlers' home to speak with his friends and family. Lt. Col. (ret.) David Ehlers, a Manhattan, Kan., resident, gave each Soldier a commemorative Congressional Medal of Honor coin that his father handed out.
What Walter Ehlers did boils down to everything encompassed in the Army values, Campbell said.
"Putting himself in danger and regardless of that (continuing the mission) I think is outstanding," he said.