By Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot, Task Force FalconApril 22, 2011
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Combined Joint Task Force Paladin honored fallen comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past 12 months during a ceremony here April 5.
The lives of 20 servicemembers - 10 Soldiers, eight Marines and two Airmen - were honored in the sixth annual Fallen Comrade Memorial.
"The memorial is important for two reasons," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Hockstedler. "First, it begins the healing process for friends and family members; and second, it provides closure."
The fallen heroes had come to Paladin from all over the United States; from Alaska, the West Coast, the Northeast, the Midwest, the Great Plains and the South.
They were husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and friends.
They were Eagle Scouts, star athletes, hunters, outdoorsmen and extreme sports enthusiasts.
Among the honored was U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eric S. Trueblood, 27, of Alameda, Calif., assigned to 720th Explosive Ordnance Company, 391st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, based in Mannheim who died March 10 of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
Each spring, EOD members past and present gather at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Twenty names will be added to the 238 that are currently enshrined on the memorial's wall.
"It's a special breed of (servicemember) who does what we do," said Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Cushing, Task Force Paladin South and 63rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion command sergeant major, and a native of Gadsden, Ala. "We accept the inherent danger to protect others."
Col. Thomas Langowski, CJTF Paladin commander, and a native of Port Edwards, Wisc., asked attendees to ponder what it is that makes someone a hero. He then read off the names of each of the 20 fallen EOD service members, noting when and where they were killed and adding a personal message for each one.
"All of these men are without a doubt, heroes," said Langowski. "They all displayed a special courage, not a courage that is absent fear; but a courage that each of them came by as they all judged that something else was more important than fear, and they lived their lives in control of that fear as they rendered safe explosive hazards designed to harm and injure others indiscriminately. And courage is a faith in something worth dying for. And fear is nothing more than our faith on trial." "So honor the sacrifice of these 20 heroes tonight by living your life to the fullest, but when you reflect on the freedom that you enjoy, remember their sacrifice. We remember."