By Maj. Michael J Weisman (The 173rd Airborne Brigade)July 8, 2015
VICENZA, Italy -- The fitness center and pool on Caserma Del Din here were renamed after three notable paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade's history in a ceremony July 8, 2015.
The fitness center was dedicated as the Judd-Metcalfe Fitness Center, in honor of 1st Lt. Donald Judd and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Metcalfe. Both men posthumously received the Silver Star for acts of heroism while serving with the Brigade in combat in Vietnam and Afghanistan, respectively. The pool was named for 1st Lt. David Bernstein, who received the Silver Star posthumously as well for his actions in Iraq.
"Three different paratroopers, three very different life stories, three different conflicts over very different times and circumstances," said Col. Michael Foster, commander of the 173rd Abn. Bde. during his remarks. "Three legendary men, who so rightfully deserve this honor."
Despite serving in different conflicts in the brigade's history, Foster pointed to a common thread found in each of their stories.
"Whether it was Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq," said Foster. "Each of these brave leaders, with platoons of paratroopers counting on them to set the example, gave the enemy everything they had, ignoring their own wounds and continuing to fight until they gave their last full measure."
While deployed to Vietnam with the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment in 1967, Judd's company was engaged by two battalion of North Vietnamese troops. While rallying his troops, Judd continuously exposed himself to intense enemy fire while leaving his position to evacuate wounded paratroopers and bring them within the platoon's perimeter, according to the Silver Star citation. Even while mortally wounded, Judd continued to lead his paratroopers.
"Don was very proud to be a Sky Soldier," said Mary York, his widow, while speaking at the ceremony. "You are also honoring all those who died in Dak To, Vietnam 48 years ago.
Metcalfe served multiple tours in the brigade during his career, deploying three times with 2nd Bn. to Afghanistan. While on a mission with Afghan troops in 2012, the enemy ambushed his platoon at close range. Despite being multiple wounds, Metcalfe continued to fight and killed one of the enemy attempting to maneuver onto his platoon.
Metcalfe loved serving with the brigade, and being with paratroopers, said Vesna Metcalfe, his widow. "This shows the brigade remembers its fallen," she said during her remarks.
After each family spoke, they unveiled the plaque in the building's atrium together.
In addition to the naming of the building itself, the brigade also dedicated the Judd-Metcalfe Fitness Center's pool as the Bernstein Pool, after 1st Lt. David Bernstein. Bernstein, a member of the swim team at the United State Military Academy, received the Silver Star for his actions in Iraq.
Bernstein was a platoon leader in Iraq in 2003 with the brigade's 1st Bn., 508th Inf. Regt. (now the 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt.), when the enemy ambushed his convoy with rocket propelled grenades and intense automatic weapons fire. Bernstein's Humvee rolled over during the attack, and despite being mortally wounded by enemy fire, he managed to free his trapped driver and continue fighting.
"David would have just loved this pool," said Rich Bernstein, his father, to the crowd of paratroopers, families and friends of the brigade. "His platoon might not have, as he would have led them during [physical training sessions] here."
The Bernstein family then led the crowd to the pool area, where they unveiled the plaque in honor of their son.
The 173rd moved its headquarters and three of its battalions here when the base opened in 2013. Formerly a commercial airfield, the base is named in honor of Renato Del Din, an Italian infantry officer and partisan during World War II killed during a raid and posthumously awarded the Italian Gold Medal for Valor.
"The Army has a long and proud history of naming buildings, forts and structures after our fallen heroes," said Foster. "When we do this our intent is to provide a lasting honor and tribute to that person's action, service and often their bravery. But it is also done to present our heroes in a way that may inspire others."