By Mrs. Melody Everly (Drum)June 23, 2016
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers, Family Members and guests gathered in Memorial Park on Tuesday to honor the memory of two 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers whose lives were lost in 2015 during Fort Drum's annual Mountain Remembrance ceremony.
After the playing of the national anthem and an invocation given by division chaplain Lt. Col. Gary Fisher, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley; Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum acting senior commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Charles W. Albertson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted adviser; retired Col. Michael Plummer, president of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division; and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, former U.S. Central Command senior enlisted adviser, walked to unveil a newly installed plaque bearing the names of the fallen being honored.
They saluted the plaque, which will remain in Memorial Park as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices these brave men made for their country.
Before introducing Grippe, the event's guest speaker, Bontrager thanked all of those present for attending the ceremony.
"What a glorious day as we pause to take a few minutes to acknowledge and recognize our Soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and also to show our love and respect to the Families that they left behind," he said.
Bontrager went on to extend a special welcome to Gold Star Families.
"Every year, we ask you to return for this ceremony," he said. "We can only imagine the strength it takes to attend when the thoughts of 10th Mountain and Fort Drum are linked to tragedy and painful memories. But again, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for coming to stand here with us on this sacred ground. We remain committed to you and the memory of your loved ones, and the sacrifice of their loss will never be forgotten."
When Bontrager concluded his remarks, Grippe took his place at the podium in front of the Military Mountaineers Monument, while behind him waved the flags of every major unit in the 10th Mountain Division, some cased as these units are currently deployed.
Grippe spoke of the important role that members of the U.S. Armed Forces have played in protecting our nation and bringing freedom to other nations around the world.
"Our 10th Mountain men and women have continually stayed in contact with the enemies of the free world, and for this we pay a price ... a price that we expect to pay to ensure the protection of our homeland and to ensure that we bring peace and security to those less fortunate," he said.
Grippe spoke of the ever-changing Army mission and of the professionalism and adaptability of Soldiers who have served in both contingency and humanitarian efforts.
"Here today, in this ceremony, we rejoice in the warriors who not only used their war-fighting skills to defeat our enemies, but who were also generous and compassionate custodians of liberty who … (helped) to rebuild security forces and economies and pave the way for peace and security," he said.
Grippe spoke of the "great men" the 10th Mountain Division lost during support missions in 2015: Spc. Kyle E. Gilbert of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Pvt. Christopher J. Castaneda, of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
"They did not fight to conquer the world, but to liberate peoples and lift them from oppression," he said. "Let us remember their excellence and heroism, their dedication to the ideas of life and liberty for all and their courage that was necessary to guarantee our way of life."
Grippe extended his heartfelt condolences to the Family and friends of the two fallen Soldiers and assured them that the sacrifices of these heroes would not be forgotten.
"As a former combat leader who spent years on the ground with great Americans (like) those honored today, I can guarantee that they did not die in vain, and I can guarantee that you will always be … a part of our 10th Mountain Family."
After a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace," a moment of silence and the benediction, Families and loved ones stepped forward to view the new plaque inscribed with the names of their fallen warriors.