By Staff Sgt. Joe ArmasApril 14, 2012
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Specialist Christopher Honaker and Pfc. Joseph Miracle were two young troopers assigned to the 173rd Brigade Combat Team when they were killed in action during a combat operation July 5, 2007 in eastern Afghanistan.
As an ode to the ultimate sacrifice that both Soldiers had made, a small outpost was named in their honor in the region where they had died.
Honaker's sister, Staff Sgt. Charlene Navarrette, from Havelock, N.C., had the chance to visit the outpost that is graced with her brother's name April 10.
"It's kind of surreal to actually be here," she said as she walked around the small square-shaped compound for the first time.
Navarrette, a flight medic assigned to Company C, Task Force Lobos, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, said making the trip to this place had been something she had wanted to do for a while now.
"For five years, all I've wanted to do was come and take a knee close to where Chris took his final knee," she added.
Nestled in the Pech Valley with breathtaking scenery, Honaker-Miracle is remotely located in one of the more volatile regions of the country. In the center of the compound lies a memorial that is dedicated the Soldiers who have given their lives while serving in the Pech.
Navarrette said seeing the memorial for the first time was a moving experience. Controlling her emotions wasn't easy at first.
"It took all I had to not burst into tears at first," she continued. "Being here is very humbling."
Since her brother's death, Navarrette has formed a strong bond with the Soldiers who served alongside him in Afghanistan.
"They're a great group of guys," she said. "Unfortunately, what has bonded us has been tragic."
Navarrette said the support she receives from the troopers of the 173rd is unwavering.
"Charlene is someone I would put down anything for to go and help…no doubt she would do the same for me or any of our brothers in arms," said Sgt. Robert Figueroa, from Torrance, Calif., a combat medic who deployed with Honaker.
"Our bond is something that could only be forged in the chaos and fires of battle, as sad as that might sound," added Figueroa, who was the last person to be by Honaker's side at the time of his death.
Figueroa said that although the brigade endured rough living and fighting conditions during that deployment, Honaker remained positive and was also someone he could rely on.
In total, the 173rd lost a total of 39 Soldiers during the brigade's 2007-2008 deployment.
Navarrette said she also stays in contact with the brigade's other Gold Star family members.
"They understand the pain that I've dealt with for all of this time, so I'm here for all of them as well," she said.
As Navarrette concluded her visit, she took time to reflect on her brother's life and the relationship they had.
"Chris and I were very close and we always looked out for each other," she said. "It (Chris's death) still hurts just as much as it did the first day, but I'm very proud of Chris and the 173rd," Navarrette added.
Navarrette's journey to Honaker-Miracle was a long one, but for herself and her brother's comrades, it was an important part of the healing process.
"This to me is a final step of grieving in most of our lives, said Figueroa. "We all celebrate this time and are thankful for all the parties involved who made this possible."
"I wanted to honor Chris's memory and try to bring closure to all of this," said Navarrette. "This was undoubtedly the best way to do it."