The 10th Mountain Division (LI) held a Mountain Remembrance ceremony Thursday at Fort Drum to honor Pvt. Christopher Castaneda, a cavalry scout with C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
"Today, we memorialize the life of Pvt. Christopher Castaneda," said Spc. Marcus Aureli, a friend to Castaneda and also a member of C Troop, 3-71 Cavalry. "The death of a friend is never an easy (topic) to talk about. Instead, I wish to speak about the life of Chris and those he inspired as well as those who looked up to him."
Castaneda, 19, hailed from Fripp Island, S.C. He joined the Army in January 2015. After he completed basic training and infantry advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., he arrived at Fort Drum in May.
Castaneda deployed in August with his unit to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
"We met standing in the long-monotonous lines at reception," Aureli said. "I had the privilege of getting to know Chris throughout One Station Unit Training, where we shared time in the same platoon together and (arrived at) the same unit after graduation."
The chapel where the ceremony was held was filled to capacity with people wishing to pay their respects to Castaneda.
"The greatest tribute we can pay to Chris and to all the men and women who have served our country is to be sure that the memory of what they did for our freedom is never forgotten," said Col. Mark W. Manns, 1st BCT commander (provisional). "We must ensure that future generations do not forget the sacrifices that were made so that people of this nation can live in a safer country and a better world."
Castaneda died from non-combat-related injuries while deployed to Iraq with 1st Brigade Combat Team.
"Chris motivated and encouraged his friends to be better Soldiers and better people," Manns said. "His loss is tragic and brings great sadness. However, the sadness is tempered by fond memories of his genuine love, compassion and empathy for his Family, friends and fellow Soldiers."
Castaneda's awards and decorations include the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Army Achievement Medal (posthumous). He is survived by his mother and grandfather.
"Though Chris' time on Earth was limited, I know he impacted quite a few lives," Aureli said. "For the short time I got to know him, he impacted mine greatly. We built a bond that could only be formed through shared hardships and strife. I pray that Chris' life has inspired others like he inspired mine."
After the ceremony, the attendees awaited their turn to pay their final respects with a hand salute and a moment of silence.
"I pray for his Family that they will find peace and solace again in this life," Aureli said. "I pray that when their time comes they will see their beloved Christopher again, and when my time comes I'll be able to do the same."