FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Soldiers and leaders of the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) came together Wednesday at the command headquarters to pay tribute to one of the longest serving First Team members.Staff Sgt. John Blackjack, the command mascot that served 19 commanders during 32 years, was remembered for his symbolism, presence at ceremonies and events over the years and his insatiable love of grass and peanut M&Ms."As we pay tribute to him, we must recognize this is not a day of sadness, it is merely a day of remembrance and a day to think about moving forward," said Maj. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, commander of the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater).Staff Sgt. Blackjack passed away May 31 from a respiratory illness. His time with the U.S. Army began May 10, 1983, when the 2-year-old mule was donated by Air Force Col. (retired) Robert O. Wray and his wife, Rosanne, and he became a private. He earned the rank of staff sergeant and was a fixture at many unit ceremonies, homecomings at Green Ramp and events over the years."We are just pleased as punch to find out that Blackjack has been such an important part of this unit ... and the kind of life that Blackjack had lived - which we never could have anticipated," said Robert, a native of Johns Island, South Carolina.Robert, Rosanne and their daughter, Kieran Kramer, attended the retreat and induction ceremony sharing memories and shedding light on Staff Sgt. Blackjack's younger years and storied past.I initially set out to find a guinea hen but came upon the miniature mule, now known as Staff Sgt. Blackjack at a "sad little farm," Rosanne said. "I looked over and saw this poor emaciated mule tied to a tree and immediately asked if I could buy him."The Wrays held onto Staff Sgt. Blackjack for a couple years before deciding to donate him."At first we wanted to donate him to West Point, but they wouldn't take him because he was so small. So our friend, who was the Fort Bragg commander at the time, suggested we donate him to this transportation company, and that's how he ended up with this fine outfit," said Robert.Over the years, the Wrays lost touch with Staff Sgt. Blackjack. They were surprised to hear of his passing and felt compelled to ensure his legacy lives on.Even though we had not seen him for 32 years, I was very sad to hear he was gone. We just felt we wanted to continue the tradition, said Rosanne. "We wanted to give, as a memorial to Blackjack, another Blackjack."Scottsdale, Arizona native Chaplain (Capt.) Nicholas Stavlund, 1st TSC Special Troops Battalion chaplain, offered the invocation noting the importance of symbols."We live in a world where symbols, rituals and tradition are still powerful markers for who we are as people ... Where a miniature mule named Blackjack represents more than just his species but instead symbolizes over three decades of Soldiers fighting and winning our nations wars," he said.While sharing memories of Staff Sgt. Blackjack, Williams, a West Palm Beach, Florida native, noted that the miniature mule had some difficulties early in his enlistment recalling a time when Blackjack broke free from his handlers during a 1st Corps Support Command run in the 90s.After much searching, he was eventually found grazing on the grass in front of the Fort Bragg North Commissary area and he wouldn't budge until he was finished, said Williams. "That was the last time Blackjack was taken out on a unit run and it earned him a no running profile."After bidding farewell to Staff Sgt. Blackjack, the command welcomed a new recruit. Pfc. Jack "Huck" Blackjack, an 11-year-old mule from the mountains of western North Carolina, assumed duties as the 1st TSC's new mascot.Huck, the new mascot's middle name, is in honor of Robert's brother, a U.S. Army Soldier who died in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II."He will carry on as a symbol of the unit's steadfast duty as the finest sustainers in the land," said Williams.