By Staff Sgt. Jennifer BunnMarch 14, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers, Family Members and friends gathered Monday in front of the headquarters building of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), to remember 11 Soldiers who died 10 years ago in a Black Hawk crash during a routine training exercise in the Fort Drum training area.
On March 11, 2003, the Polar Bears were conducting air mobile operations with the support of 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. At approximately 1:50 p.m., the trail Black Hawk of a series of three aircraft disappeared from radar. It was not until the other two helicopters arrived back at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield that the realization of a tragedy had struck.
Standing before the monument commemorating the seven infantry Soldiers and four aviation Soldiers lost in the accident, Lt. Col. Roland Dicks, 4-31 Infantry commander, spoke to those in attendance.
"It is important that we momentarily take a pause from our normal duties to remember the fallen from the heartbreaking accident of 11 March 2003," Dicks said. "As you know, today is the 10-year anniversary of that tragic day. It is as much of the 4-31st history as the Bataan Death March during World War II and the Chosin Reservoir during our service in Korea.
"The monument stands firm, a constant reminder of the service and sacrifice of those fallen -- gone but not forgotten," Dicks continued. "It also stands as a constant reminder of the cost of freedom and the danger Soldiers commonly face -- and not just while deployed, but in training. Trying to do our nation's bidding wherever and whenever called."
As the colors of all three battalions flapped in the wind, Dicks remarked on how the tragedy did not just affect the units, but it impacted the entire 10th Mountain Division (LI), Fort Drum, the North Country community and most of all, the Family and friends of those lost.
"The men have their names etched on the monument," he said. "They loved, laughed and cried just like you and me. Some were fathers, husbands and brothers; all were sons. They died doing what they were told to do, and part of not forgetting them is knowing who they were."
The following Soldiers were killed in the accident:
* Capt. Christopher E. Britton, 27, from Ohio, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment;
* Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kenneth L. Miller, 35, from California, assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment;
* Staff Sgt. Brian Pavlich, 25, from Port Jervis, assigned to C Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment;
* Sgt. John L. Eichenlaub Jr., 24, from South Williamsport, Pa., assigned to C Company, 4-31 Infantry;
* Sgt. Joshua M. Harapko, 23, from Peoria, Ariz., assigned to C Company, 4-31 Infantry;
* Spc. Lucas V. Tripp, 23, from Aurora, Colo., assigned to B Company, 2-10 Aviation;
* Spc. Barry M. Stephens, 20, from Pinson, Ala., assigned to B Company, 2-10 Aviation;
* Pfc. Shawn A. Mayerscik, 22, from Oil City, Pa., assigned to C Company, 4-31 Infantry;
* Pfc. Tommy C. Young, 20, from Knoxville, Tenn., assigned to C Company, 4-31 Infantry;
* Pfc. Stryder O. Stoutenburg, 18, from Missoula, Mont. assigned to C Company, 4-31 Infantry, and
* Pfc. Andrew D. Stevens, 20, from Rockingham, N.H., assigned to C Company, 4-31 Infantry.
The ceremony was attended by 10th CAB and 2nd BCT command teams, as well as current and former 4-31 Infantry Soldiers.
Matthew Boone, a former Polar Bear who was on the fire support team of C Company in 2003, still cannot find the words to express the way he feels about the incident, but he said coming back for the ceremony is a way to remember his friends and those who have lost their lives in the war on terrorism.
"To me, that is the most important thing -- never forget," he said. "Never forget the lives that have been lost during this conflict altogether -- not just today's remembering of our seven lost friends but everybody that has given their life in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Jaye Lindsay, who was a 23-year-old infantryman in 2003, said he was waiting in line to get on the next helicopter when the incident occurred.
"At 23 years old, you don't really know how to feel when something like that happens," he said. "There is no safety brief or training that prepares you for that. You just get closer to the guys you do know that were with you. I think that is why 10 years later many people still come together and we still talk regularly."
As the ceremony concluded, several people placed red roses near the monument to pay their respects.