News: Soldiers eulogize 4 fallen comrades at ceremony
Spc. Dan Balda
4th Brigade Combat Team PAO
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq -- Task Force Baghdad Soldiers and Iraqi Security Forces came together Nov. 1 to remember four U.S. Soldiers recently killed in terrorist attacks.
Lt. Col. William Wood, commander of 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, and Capt. Michael MacKinnon, A Company, 1st Bn., 184th Inf. Reg., were killed by an improvised explosive device Oct. 27. Wood was posthumously promoted to colonel the day after his death.
Two other 1/184th Soldiers, Capt. Raymond Hill and Spc. Shakere Guy, were killed in action after their humvee struck an IED Oct. 29.
Col. Edward Cardon, 4th Brigade Combat Team Commander, began the ceremony by quoting Wood: "Soldiers have fallen but the line holds steady."
Cardon reminded the audience of nearly 1,500 Soldiers why they were at the memorial ceremony.
"We've come to mourn their deaths, but more importantly to honor their lives and to affirm our resolve," he said.
One by one, the fallen brothers-in-arms from 1/184th"nicknamed the Nightstalkers"were eulogized by their leaders and fellow Soldiers.
The four came from all walks of life and exemplified the diversity that makes up the Army. Guy was from Jamaica and MacKinnon was awarded his commission after graduating from West Point, said Lt. Col. Everett Knapp, 1/184th Battalion Commander.
"They have given their hearts, lives, sweat and blood to fight for freedom for the Iraqi people," Knapp said. He finished with a quote from the legendary boxer Jim Corbett: "Fight one more round. When your feet are so tired you have to shuffle back to the ring, fight one more round. When your arms are so tired you can hardly lift your hands, fight one more round. Remember that the man who fights one more round is never whipped."
Lt. Col. David Funk, commander of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, said he"d only really had the pleasure of calling Wood a friend for the last couple of months. They had run into each other at various times during their military careers but had never really developed a close friendship.
That all changed once Wood was assigned to 1-184.
"Bill Wood is a great American, a superb fellow battalion commander, a true and loyal friend and my brother," Funk said.
He bemoaned the fact it took a war to bring the two of them together.
"We have been as close as two brother commanders can be in war. He loved being "Nightstalker 6." He had a great sense of history and a great feeling of pride at being part of this battalion."
Getting to know Wood taught Funk a valuable lesson he was more than happy to share with everybody.
"I ask that you learn from our example and not wait too long to get to know the Soldiers next to you as Bill and I almost did," Funk said. "Life is too short for pretense and pride. I am a richer man today for having known Bill Wood. He made me a better commander, a better friend and a better person."
MacKinnon was remembered by his friend Capt. Danjel Bout, as a man who used his powerful will to take something that was broken and make it new again.
"From the moment he arrived (at A Co.), he treated every Soldier with dignity, grace and respect," Bout said. "And for that, we loved him."
Bout said MacKinnon personified America not as it is, but as it aspires to be. That manifested itself in everything he did and everything he touched. Bout shared a story to illustrate how MacKinnon was viewed by the Iraqi people he came into contact with on a daily basis.
"We were visiting a town whose sheikh had recently died and the townspeople had gathered to vote on who the next sheikh was going to be," Bout recalled. "Each of the villagers offered up their suggestions and each one got booed down. Until one person said, "I think Capt. MacKinnon should be the sheikh." As soon as he said that, everyone's face lit up and they all agreed. Mike kept saying "No, no," and then he finally asked them, "Why do you want me to be the sheikh?" They said the same thing: "Because you are the only one we can trust.""
1st Sgt. Mark Barnes of B Company, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment shared another story about MacKinnon that had the mourners smiling and laughing in the midst of their grief.
"He didn't like affection from men except in the conservative way in which fathers love their sons. Once on Haifa Street an Iraqi man kissed him and he looked very uncomfortable. Especially when I pointed out to him that from my angle it looked like a kiss on the lips. I told him often that we appreciated him taking one for the team. When I put it on our company website, he started his own (information operations) campaign to tell everyone that he didn't kiss anyone, he was the one kissed."
1st Lt. Cameron Murphy remembered Hill as a kind and gentle man who rarely had a harsh word for anyone. Hill was originally the battalion fire support officer and was in charge of plotting for lethal fire.
"Truth was, he took more delight in plotting the distribution of humanitarian assistance than in the destruction of his fellow man," Murphy said. "His greatest fear was that his two girls were growing up too fast, that they were too cute for their own good and they were starting to attract boys.
Staff Sgt. Ron Eberhardt said that regardless of the mission before him, Hill would pack enough toys and candy for any lucky children he would meet. Hill's favorite missions involved bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Baghdad and he often posed for pictures with the people he was directly involved with helping.
Guy was constantly going out on missions with Hill. His friend, Spc. Jose Farias, remembered Guy going to the post exchange to buy candy with his own money to share with the children he was sure to meet while helping the psychological operations team.
Guy's company commander, Capt. Jeffrey Dirske remembered him as a fine Soldier who was willing to perform any task, but a tanker who never forgot his first love'tracked vehicles.
"He would never let us forget about his love for the tracks," Dirske said. "When we first got here, he was part of the personal security detachment, and I remember the excitement in his voice and face when he would talk about the tracks.
"What we will never forget was his desire to help others and his commitment to the mission," Farias added. "He was committed to his family, his fiancée and daughter as well as the Soldiers here."
Cardon's final note reminded everyone that the best way to honor the fallen Soldiers is to continue their mission.
"While we honor these brave men's deaths, the best way for us to remember them is to take what they have left with us: professionalism, motivation, passion, resilience " the list goes on and on. Let's take what they left usâ?¦to continue our mission, to have faith in our victory, to persevere against the enemy, to never quit or accept defeat. That is what we must do."