By Mollie Miller, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsJune 29, 2011
FORT RILEY, Kan., June 29, 2011 -- Mother Nature herself seemed to hold her breath as Sgt. 1st Class Maria Estremera pulled back the red sheet to reveal the names of 11 fallen 1st Infantry Division Soldiers June 29, 2011, at Victory Park. Across a thin sidewalk, Sgt. 1st Class Nelson Gamio pulled back an identical red sheet to reveal the names of 11 more fallen division Soldiers.
“Today, we memorialize the courage and patriotism of 22 Soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. William Mayville, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, Kan. “(Our missions) were successful because of the dedication, selflessness and courage displayed by the men and women we honor today.”
The Victory Park Ceremony, held annually in conjunction with the division’s Victory Week, honors Soldiers who have died while assigned or attached to the 1st Infantry Division during a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The 22 Soldiers honored June 29 served as advisors, as security partners, as members of the Devil, Dagger and Duke brigades, and, most simply, as American Soldiers working to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Each day, it is our duty to remember and honor these men and women through our deeds and actions,” Mayville said. “Make no mistake; the 22 Soldiers we honor today and their families are forever part of the Big Red One.”
David and Annavee Hinkley are grateful for the Big Red One and the Army family that has embraced them since their daughter, Sgt. Faith Hinkley, was killed in Iraq Aug. 7, 2010.
“The Army family has supported us and made things a little easier over the last 10 months,” David said.
Annavee said her daughter was always in the middle of everything, always very busy doing things including cheerleading and marching band competitions.
“It would take a long time to talk about everything she did,” David said.
A third generation Soldier, Faith enlisted in the Army following her freshmen year at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“We tried to talk her out of it,” Annavee said. “I reminded her that there was a war going on overseas but she just looked me straight in the eyes and said ‘mama, I’m not afraid.’”
Faith, who was assigned to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion at the time of her death, is now listed among the 498 Soldiers whose names are etched into mirrored black granite blocks that line the walkway in Victory Park. But she, like the rest of the Soldiers honored in the sacred park next to 1st Inf. Div. headquarters, is more than just etchings in stone. Faith and all the Soldiers, David said, not only served but also lived.
“We can never repay the price these kids have had to pay,” he said. “We can never forget any of them.”