FORT HOOD, Texas - On a seemingly mundane Monday morning Soldiers line up one by one, not in a "typical" formation, but in chapel pews, not to mourn a the loss of, but to celebrate lives of two true American heroes.

It was a year ago - to the day - that after hours of battling against 600 heavily-armed insurgents near the Iraqi holy city of An Najaf, Capt. Mark Resh and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Cornell Chao paid the ultimate of sacrifices.

With a slideshow of memories blinking on the projection screen and the calming sounds of the piano playing in the background, Soldiers with the 4th "Guns" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment remembered the lives and heroism of the two apache pilots during a ceremony at the West Fort Hood Chapel Jan. 28.

"Each of us will forever carry distinct memories of the events that unfolded," Lt. Col. Tim DeVito said. "Our Army and our nation lost two heroes, and their loved ones and friends lost the most magnificent of men.

"To be sure, we wish we could trade back their astonishing and heroic legacy for their swift return to us today. In an instant we would chose this, but theirs is a mark of distinction, which cannot be reversed."

The native of Orlando, Fla., said that someone once stated that combat brings out a person's true character.

"This is because in that setting, more than another, a Soldier is tested to his limits... some times physical, sometimes environmental, sometimes the mental limits of loneliness and fear, confidence and commitment. Nothing it is said reveals a person's character like the strains of combat will," DeVito further explained.

However, for these two courageous pilots evidence of their character was revealed long before that infamous day.

"(The two apache pilots) had an impact on everyone," said Resh's girlfriend Theresa Posey of Clarksville, Tenn.

Resh was the captain of his soccer team and an Eagle Scout, the highest rank achieved in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. He was known for his leadership in his troop and community.

Posey added that she remembers most vividly his ability to set his mind to something and accomplish it to perfection.

"His ability and determination to do the best definitely affected the Soldiers around him," Posey said. "They looked up to him. Mark is my biggest hero and he always will be."

As Chao's brother Ray shared with DeVito, Chao wanted to serve his country right out of high school despite this not being common in the culture of their Chinese-American community in Orange County, Calif. He first served as an infantryman for 10 years before becoming a pilot and returned to combat a second and third time each time his Nation called him to duty.

These two great American heroes shared many treasured attributes.

"We miss their stoic competence, their genuine friendliness. In their own individual way, we knew both of them as dedicated experts, reserved pentathletes, absolutely dependable friends," DeVito said.

The commander remembered the day his battalion suffered that immense loss.

"It was a day we grieved in terrible sadness. We prayed for their families and loved ones. We wished desperately this had not happened," said Devito. "As numbness of the faded and reality overcame us, as Soldiers and aviators we marveled at their bravery. Their bravery and sacrifice was vividly understood."

They instinctively and decisively protected their wingman, diving in and firing on an enemy position that was shooting at their buddies, drawing the full attention and heavy fire away from their lead aircraft so that it could fly to safety. This was their mission that day and they did it effectively.

"It was combat action that only heroes truly understand. It is a gallantry not explained by words, but by the selfless, undaunted actions of true heroes," said DeVito. "The examples of Resh and Chao will forever remind us what it means to be a Patriot, what it means to be a Soldier, and what it means to be a man."

Both of the Soldiers' families requested that the Army delay presentation of their sons' Silver Stars until the unit returned from combat. Devito said that it was humbling to learn, to say the least.

The ceremony in which they will receive their sons' Silver Stars, one of the Nation's highest awards for valor in combat, is scheduled for the end of March.

Posey said that she feels wonderful knowing that their memory will live on forever through this close-knit family, their First Team brothers and sisters in arms.