News: Spartans and community honor fallen paratrooper
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Paratroopers, family and friends gathered at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Soldiers' Chapel, Feb. 20, to honor Army Sgt. Okan M. Cetinbag, who died the evening of Feb. 11 from injuries sustained Feb. 7 at his home on JBER.
Cetinbag, 24, of Morton Grove, Ill., was an infantryman assigned to Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at JBER.
“I had the honor of being Sgt. Cetinbag’s company commander for the last 10 months,” said Capt. Drew Cronkhite, Blackfoot Company commander. “In that time he’s impressed me as a hard working, positive and energetic soldier.”
Cronkhite spoke of Cetinbag’s passion for life and being an airborne paratrooper.
“Sgt. Cetinbag was just one of those people that understood he was serving for something bigger than himself. He attacked everything you put in front of him with unrelenting tenacity and enthusiasm.”
Cetinbag began his military career with the Marine Corps at the Marine Recruit Depot in September 2007. Upon graduating Marine Corps boot camp, he was assigned to the 1st Tank Battalion at Twentynine Palms, Calif. as a logistics vehicle system operator. He deployed to Afghanistan on Feb. 24, 2010, for a seven-month tour in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. After completing his service obligation in June 2011, Sgt. Cetinbag received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. In January 2013, he joined the Army and attended Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga.
He was assigned to Blackfoot Company in May 2013.
He quickly adapted to the Army and was well-respected by his peers.
“He was 100 percent dedicated to being in the Army and learning his job,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Hisman, Cetinbag’s squad leader. “He was a very fast learner who would not settle for being just okay at something. It was all or nothing with him.”
“The military has lost a future leader that would set the example for the types of soldiers and leaders that we desperately need within our ranks,” Hisman said.
First Sgt. Landon Sahagun conducted a last roll call in which Cetinbag's name was called, but not answered.
After the roll call, a rifle squad fired a 21-gun salute.
Capt. Matthew Miller, Army chaplain, addressed the family and spoke of Cetinbag and his legacy he left behind.
“To our nation at large, Sgt. Cetinbag leaves behind a country that enjoys the freedoms that he helped to sustain,” Miller said. “To his chain of command, I know that you will never be the same. We never look at soldiers and our leadership of them the same after something like this happens. To his peers and fellow paratroopers, he left you as brothers and friends. It is up to you to remember his legacy and to leave one of your own.”