FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 8, 2015) -- When Detroit native Cory Smith joined the Army in the early 1990s, he knew his life would be different, but he could not have predicted the magnitude of how much it would change.

Smith attended infantry basic combat training on Fort Benning, Ga., where he began nurturing relationships that would develop into lifelong friendships. Their bond was strengthened through teamwork and shared hardships as they overcame the complexities of learning advanced infantry tactics.

Upon graduation, Smith and many of his classmates were assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), on Fort Drum. He described their initial experience in the Army as an oddity compared to how initial training is conducted today.

"You went to basic and advanced individual training together, we trained [at our unit] together, and then we deployed together," he explained. "It's not like the units now where you have only one or two guys [who have stayed] together."

Smith said they saw each other as Family, as brothers, and as someone they could lean on when times became difficult. He went on to say that they would spend many weeks with each other's Families.

"We were really tight," Smith said. "We all knew each other's Families. There were times when my buddies couldn't go home for the holidays, and I'd take them back with me to Michigan so they didn't have to be alone."

Everything the Soldiers had worked toward, everything they had become, was tested during their first and for many, their last deployment.

MISSION IN MOGADISHU

Their deployment to Mogadishu, Somalia, supported Operation Restore Hope, a U.S.-led, U.N.-sanctioned multinational force mission designed to establish a safe environment for conducting humanitarian operations.

Unified under the name Task Force Mountain, the unit was composed of Soldiers, assigned to the 1st and 2nd Brigades, 10th Mountain Division (LI), who assumed the responsibility of securing supply routes used to deliver food and water to the local population.

Mid-deployment, Operation Gothic Serpent was given the green light, where elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and members of SEAL Team 4 conducted a mission to capture high-ranking Somalian militant leaders responsible for regional civil unrest.

They were met with heavy resistance as they attempted an air insertion into the city by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that subsequently resulted in the loss of two aircraft. This was the beginning of a two-day battle that left 18 U.S. Soldiers killed in action and another 73 wounded in action.

The Battle of Mogadishu occurred Oct. 3-4, 1993. The Soldiers of 2-14 Infantry were part of the task force that went into the heart of Mogadishu to rescue the pilots of the two Black Hawk helicopters that were shot down by Somali militia.

At the end of the battle, while evacuating the city, the Soldiers realized there was not enough room in the vehicles for everyone. Several Soldiers had to run on foot to the link-up point approximately one mile away. This dash to safety became known as the Mogadishu Mile.

The heroic actions of Smith and his brothers-in-arms during those tragic events were portrayed in books and blockbuster movies that helped cement their legacy in the pages of U.S. history.

DECADES AFTER DEPLOYMENT

Twenty-two years later, the events of those days play vividly in the minds of veterans like Smith, who fought to bring home the men to their left and right.

During the years after their deployment, their Family began to part ways. Smith and many members of his team left military service to pursue civilian careers.

Separated by distance, they began to lose touch with each other. But, each year, near the anniversary date, their thoughts slightly shift as they remember their fallen comrades and those who carry the mental and physical burdens of combat.

Slowly they reclaimed their friendships as each year Soldiers, veterans, and Family Members from across the country began to come together to support each other during their time of remembrance.

"It's nice to know that people are still thinking about you," Smith said. "It helps the other guys to know that they are not by themselves."

Smith said that until the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, he and the other veterans spent that day alone. He explained that many others are prevented from attending because of the distance they would need to travel. Smith added that they reserve their trips for key years, and he anticipates a large turnout for the 25th anniversary.

PAYING TRIBUTE TO FAMILY

Keeping the memory of those Soldiers' actions alive and paying tribute to their sacrifices, the Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment "Golden Dragons" (deployed and in garrison), alongside five Mogadishu veterans and their Family members commemorated the 22nd Anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu with a two-mile run and wreath-laying ceremony at their battalion headquarters, Oct. 2.

The event began as nearly 60 current and former Golden Dragons ran two miles in silence, stopping periodically to read vignettes that described the events that unfolded Oct. 3-4, 1993.

"I think just remembering what we went through and trying not to lose that togetherness we had back then is extremely important," Smith said. "Just the memory of the guys we lost … it was literally like losing a brother."

Since the 20th anniversary, Smith has reconnected with his once-lost Family.

"We are pretty much in constant contact with each other," he said. "We still get phone calls or text messages in the middle of the night, people just saying 'hey, how are you doing' or 'I'm going through a rough time.'"

Capt. Aaron Carraway, 2-14 Infantry ready force commander, described the event as surreal.

"I feel taken back. It's a totally different experience, compared to watching Hollywood movies [versus] speaking to these individuals," he said. "Some of the stories, some of the not-so-glorious things they did over there and did day after day."

Carraway said that the most important part of the event was remembering their rich history.

"What we wanted the Soldiers to take away today was to continue to honor the guys who did this 22 years ago," he said. "To remember the Soldiers, who were killed in action that day, and to pass on the history so it's never forgotten."