FORT HOOD, Texas -- Hundreds of Family, friends, comrades and supporters attended a memorial held for Cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey, 21, at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel, June 9.
Winey, of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, was one of nine victims when flood waters took his life, and the lives of eight Soldiers, while conducting convoy operations with 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, June 2.
"We are here on a solemn day, to pay tribute to a fallen comrade," said Maj. Gen. J.T. Thomson III, 1st Cav. Div. commanding general. "Today's ceremony allows Mitch's fellow cadets to honor him.
"To Mitch's Family," he added, "thank you for being here, and more so, thank you for allowing Mitch to serve our nation."
Winey's memorial was held ahead of the other eight fallen at Fort Hood as post officials wanted Winey's brothers- and sisters-in-arms to be able to attend. The cadets returned to New York Saturday. The memorials for Fort Hood's eight Soldiers will be held today at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel.
More than 100 cadets from West Point have been at Fort Hood since late May for their Cadet Troop Leadership Training -- a course all West Point cadets go through during their time at the academy.
"Mitch was many things to many people," Thomson said. "A loving son, a caring brother, a kind and devoted friend and a selfless teammate in the great West Point Class of 2018."
Winey's best friend and fellow cadet, Zain Shaikh, spoke at the memorial. Shaikh began his remarks with letting the more than 300 people in attendance know that the world lost one of its brightest souls.
"While we are gathered here to remember, we should not grieve or mourn," Shaikh said, "instead, I invite you all to celebrate the great memories of a beautiful life, even if it was too short.
"I have enough memories of Mitch to last a lifetime, and then some," he added, "but that's the kind of person he was … a doer. He didn't wait around for things to happen … he truly lived."
Shaikh said he and Winey's favorite thing to do together was travel, because Winey loved meeting new people.
"Mitch loved people," Shaikh said about the two of them meeting people everywhere from Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina to Italy, Spain and Ireland. "And people loved Mitch … he touched so many lives. I've never seen anyone make friends quite like Mitch Winey."
Shaikh said he realizes now more than ever how many lives Winey truly touched, saying he has been receiving calls from all over the world from people he's never met, asking about his fallen friend.
West Point's class of 2018 has a motto of "With Strength, We Lead," which Thomson said could not have been better for a spirited class who bonded together to flourish as team leaders and truly demonstrate true leadership in all of their endeavors and cadet challenges.
During West Point's CTLT, cadets choose and are assigned to a unit with the branch or military occupational specialty they are interested in entering into upon graduation. Winey was exploring the branch of field artillery with Fort Hood's 3-16 FA Regt., serving as a transportation platoon leader, when the floods struck on the range.
"To the Corps of Cadets and the Long Gray Line (West Point graduates throughout history), we grip hands as our hearts stand at attention," Thomson said after the cadets and West Point graduates in attendance sang the USMA alma mater together.
Raised in Indiana, Winey began at West Point in July of 2014 and was set to graduate in 2018. He was majoring in engineering management and excelled in company athletics, having just been announced as the assistant cadet-in-charge of the ski patrol. He had many hobbies, to include skiing, hiking, cliff diving, playing piano, rock climbing and traveling, and was working on attaining his pilot's license.
"Mitch loved bringing people together," Shaikh said, "and my greatest hope, to honor his memory, is by letting his passing bring us closer, and send us to the far ends of the Earth to spread his joy and celebrate his life.
"Mitch was a doer," he concluded, "he never looked back, and he wouldn't want us to, either."