News: 20th Eng. BDE dedicates fallen with OEF Memorial
Story by Spc. Paul Holston
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Soldiers from 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade dedicated a memorial to 13 soldiers who were killed in action while deployed in 2010 to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom at the Brigade’s Myitkyina Field, June 16.
Thirteen Gold Star families, each representing a soldier from the unit, were provided the opportunity to witness their specific soldier to be commemorated on a memorial plaque that will always be displayed at the field.
“This memorial was funded entirely by donation,” said Lt. Col. Michael Ellicott, battalion commander of 27th Eng. Bn. “More than three quarters of the money was given by the soldiers of the battalion, most in small amounts, but many gave considerably more. The balance of the donation were provided by individuals and organization from across the country and around the world.”
The memorial ceremony included an extended remembrance of the fallen, to include brief descriptions of all 13 soldiers.
The soldiers’ names are: Sgt. Mario Rodriguez, Jr., Spc. Joseph Johnson, Pfc. Gunnar Hotchkin, Spc. Scott Andrews, Sgt. Chase Stanley, Spc. Matthew Johnson, Spc. Jesse Reed, Sgt. Zachary Fisher, Pfc. Ryane Clark, Spc. Ronnie Pallares, Sgt. Jason McCluskey, Cpl. Dale Kridlo and Sgt. Aaron Cruttenden, all with the 27th Eng. Bn.
“They saved a lot of lives out there, but yet there was a cost for that,” said Capt. Jeff Mitchell, 27th Eng. Bn. chaplain, who deployed in 2010 along with the 13 soldiers. “By being able to bring closure for what we all went through and having their names etched in stone, they’ll always be remembered for the sacrifice they made to our nation.”
Parents, siblings, and fellow comrades of the fallen appreciated the very, kind gesture of the unit remembering their soldiers.
“For me as a Gold Star parent to be able to come and visit with these soldiers that were with our loved ones at their last moments is tremendous,” said Tracy Clark, mother of Pfc. Ryane Clark. “It means a lot of us.”
“It’s very important and comforting that they still acknowledge him and the rest of them,” said Alfred Andrews, father of Spc. Scott Andrews. “You have to…you absolutely have to.”
Following the ceremony, the Gold Star families were provided the opportunity for a photograph with their specific soldiers’ photo and next to the stone memorial, as well as being able to see a variety of engineer demonstrations at the OP5 range.
“Tiger Battalion soldiers and their families are the heart and soul of this organization,” said Ellicott. “They are the reason that this country has the military that it does and the freedom that we enjoy.
Ellicott said, “The Army celebrated its 237th birthday last week, and since its inception, soldiers have volunteered and some have given everything. Words cannot express the full impact of their valor, or their sacrifice. We have a future because of the brave men and women that we honor today, and this memorial confirms that we will never forget their sacrifice.”