News: Soldiers pay final tribute to fallen heroes
Story by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAMROD, Afghanistan — The sound of "Amazing Grace" twanged in the air as a lone bagpiper solemnly walked up to the three rifles, helmets and combat boots. Below one pair of boots, a picture of a father of three; another of a Soldier engaged to be married; and below the last pair of boots, a picture of a Soldier dedicated to his country.
As the music continued playing, hundreds of mourners paid their final respects to the three fallen Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, who were tragically killed by two roadside bombs Aug. 1.
Cpl. Jonathan M. Walls, 27, from West Lawn, Pa., Pfc. Richard K. Jones, 21, of Roxboro, N.C., and Pvt. Patrick S. Fitzgibbon, 19, of Knoxville, Tenn., were part of a four-day battalion operation in the Kandahar province, clearing an area of insurgent fighters deep in enemy territory, when they were killed.
"They chose to stand and volunteer when others remained seated," said Lt. Col. Reik Andersen, 1-12 IN commander. "They did things that most people considered too dangerous; but most importantly, they were foot Soldiers — salt of the earth infantrymen."
Seven Soldiers spoke of their lives; paying tribute to the men they had grown to love.
"Jon [Walls] goal in life was supporting his family in any way they needed, or ever wanted," said Pfc. Andrew Lawrence, 1-12 IN. "He was a fun loving guy with an off-the-wall goofy personality that everyone loved. Jon will live on in the eyes of his wife and children."
For Pvt. Steven Fitzen, 1-12th IN C-Co First Platoon, he will always remember Fitzgibbon as anything but an "average infantryman."
"Patrick had dreams of becoming a police officer," he said. "His dream was to go to Knoxville and become a police officer and to start a family. Fitzgibbon was an excellent Soldier and an even better friend. Words can't describe how much he will be missed."
Charlie Company's First Platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Kennith Hicks, remembers Jones as the " ... type of guy that everybody loves and the Soldier that ever leader wishes they could have."
"He was always willing to go above and beyond his job to make himself better and the squad and platoon better," he said. "He would do anything for you."
The 1-12th IN Charlie Company commander, Capt. Duke Reim, spoke of the endearing qualities he would always remember his three fallen Soldiers for.
"Love of family, selfless and dedicated service, friendship, courage, patience and a passionate desire to improve are all qualities these warriors displayed on a daily basis," Reim said. "They are the very finest of America's sons and we will always remember them."
The service ended with a 21-gun salute and taps. Digital pictures of the victims flashed on a screen before the memorial and as music played, hundreds of mourners moved in a long line in front of each set of symbolic remains to pay their last respects.
"Let us never forget the contributions, triumphs and sacrifices of 'Jon, Fitz and Jonesy,' and the other Heroic souls of our fallen, who chose to put service to others ahead of themselves," said Andersen. "Rest in peace fellow Warriors."