By Mr Steve Ghiringhelli (IMCOM)June 30, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers, Family Members and hundreds of guests gathered June 22 in Memorial Park for Fort Drum's annual Mountain Remembrance ceremony. The observance honored 21 Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) who died during contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010.
Before introducing the guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller Jr., senior commander Fort Drum, and Mike Plummer, president of the 10th Mountain Division Association, unveiled a memorial plaque inscribed with the names of the fallen Soldiers. The association donated the monument to the division to stand as a permanent fixture in Memorial Park.
Guidons representing every division unit formed a large half circle of vibrant colors behind this year's guest speaker, retired Gen. John M. Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army.
He spoke of the fallen Soldiers as men who lived life from a place much larger than self, where "death is always a silent companion." He said like others their age, they did not want to die; but unlike many others, they were willing to.
"I have been I awe of this reality all of my adult life," Keane said. "Our beloved and remembered Soldiers were willing to put at risk everything that they care about in life: the opportunity to lead a full life; the opportunity to have friends in life … the opportunity to have love in their life.
"Why did they risk all of that?" he asked. "In my view, they did so for one another … and they did so out of a simple yet profound sense of duty. This is true honor. We can never take this kind of devotion for granted. Our remembrance today is vivid testimony that we never will."
Keane, who commanded 1st Brigade after 10th Mountain Division (LI)'s reactivation in the mid-1980s, said he had an opportunity to meet privately with the Families of fallen Soldiers before the ceremony.
"I do respect you so (much) for making the journey here on this special day of remembrance, and to open up your hearts once again to the pain and suffering of your loss," he told Family Members. "I hope your hearts will fill up today with the love and support that is represented here from the members of this great division and post, and the surrounding communities."
The retired general praised 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers for making major strides in Afghanistan, especially in the Kandahar region, where the division's commander, Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, Regional Command - South commander, has led the charge to rout Taliban insurgents from entrenched areas.
"We have taken away their safe havens," Keane noted. "The Taliban is failing, and they will continue to fail. The momentum is on our side now, and the 10th Mountain Division is right in the middle of this fight.
"This is a tough fight, and if the president keeps the force levels up to what the commanders need, we will win," he said. "No better statement can be made than that, to provide testimony and validation to the sacrifice and loss that we are honoring today."
Keane went on to describe American clashes with evil over the past 100 years. He said although the U.S. has helped make the world a safer place, after the collapses of Nazism and communism, a new ideological struggle emerged, which has shifted the center of gravity for international strife and security to the Middle East and South Asia.
"We are now involved in another epic struggle with an ideology " radical Islam," said Keane, who lost 85 co-workers on 9/11 when the Pentagon was attacked. "While 9/11 was a tactical success for al-Qaida, it was a strategic failure, because it brought the power and might of the United States to the region " a place they wanted to drive us out of.
"How ironic it is that a fledgling democracy is growing in Iraq," Keane added, "which is like a dagger to the heart of radical Islam."
After 9/11, and after driving the Taliban from power, keeping al-Qaida from finding sanctuaries in Afghanistan and elsewhere has diminished the threat to the U.S., Keane pointed out.
"We have not had another attack in this country because we have been on offense against our enemies in the region," he said. "Killing Osama bin Laden is an important part of this offense.
"While we don't celebrate death, this was justice, and I take comfort that his death came at the hands of an American," he added. "It is a major setback for al-Qaida. (Osama bin Laden) was an iconic leader who almost reached divinity status as he alluded us for almost 10 years. His loss will affect recruiting, fundraising, morale and the will of the organization to sustain itself."
The former commander concluded his remarks by admiring American ideals and the brave Soldiers who engage in some of the "fiercest fighting" to protect those ideals.
"America is the greatest country in the history of mankind," Keane said. "Never has a country sacrificed so much, travelled so far and done so much for others. We seek no territory or worldly possessions. We simply want others to enjoy the freedoms that we have, and when necessary, we are willing to stand up against thugs, bullies and killers in the world who impose their will on others.
"Our Soldiers are the instruments and the force for good in the world," he continued. "These Soldiers we remember today, and others who are serving, represent the very best of what America has to offer. They do so with determination, competence and extraordinary compassion.
Their ability to point a weapon at someone and fight, and then minutes later extend a hand of love to a Family, is truly amazing.
"To our Soldiers who we remember here today " our loved ones, our husband, our son, our brother, our dear friend, our teammate " it is their character and their values that we honor. It is an inspiration to our lives that they were willing to give up theirs, so that we could have ours."
The names of those Soldiers killed in action, appearing in chronological order, are as follows:
Spc. Robert M. Rieckhoff, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment; Spc. Allen N. Dikcis, 7th Engineer Battalion; and Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer and Lt. Col. Paul R. Bartz, both of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Mountain Division (LI).
Also, 1st Lt. Joseph J. Theinert, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment; Spc. Brian M. Anderson, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment; Staff Sgt. Christopher F. Cabacoy, Staff Sgt. Jesse W. Ainsworth, Sgt. Donald R. Edgerton and Pfc. Edwin C. Wood, all of 1-71 Cavalry; and Cpl. Joshua A. Harton, 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment.
Also, Sgt. 1st Class Charles M. Sadell and Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino, 1-71 Cavalry; Sgt. Michael D. Kirspel Jr., 3-6 FA; 1st Lt. Scott F. Milley and Sgt. Edward H. Bolen, both of 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment; Sgt. 1st Class Todd M. Harris, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment; Spc. Blake D. Whipple, 7th Engineer Battalion; and Pfc. Devon J. Harris, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
The names of those Soldiers who died in a combat area, appearing in chronological order, are as follows: Spc. Brushaun X. Anderson, 2-15 FA; and Pfc. Clinton E. Springer II, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment.
After a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps and the benediction, Family Members took turns viewing the monument inscribed with the names of their fallen warriors.