April 8, 2011

Fallen Va. Guard combat engineers remembered at Fort Leonard Wood memorial ceremony

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Dept. of Military Affairs

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The names of five Virginia Army National Guard combat engineers lost during combat operations in the Global War on Terror were among the more than 330 names etched on the Memorial Wall for Fallen Engineers unveiled April 7 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Fort Leonard Wood is the U. S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and home to the U. S. Army Engineer School and Regiment.

 

The names of five Virginia Army National Guard combat engineers lost during combat operations in Global War on Terror were among the more than 330 names etched on the Memorial Wall for Fallen Engineers unveiled April 7 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The unveiling took place after the Fallen Sapper Tribute Fort Leonard Wood Memorial Chapel, a ceremony designed to pay humble and respectful homage to the 33 engineer Soldiers who died in combat from April 2010 to April 2011. Directly outside the chapel in the Engineer Memorial Grove, the wall made of Missouri red granite engraved with the names of engineers who made the ultimate sacrifice was unveiled in front of family members and fellow engineers from across the country. After the unveiling, family members and fellow engineers were invited to trace the names on the wall. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“To family and friends, your sacrifice is great, and we did not come here tonight to open deep wounds,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, Chief of Engineers of the United States Army, before the unveiling. “We did come here tonight to say that you are not alone, and you will never be forgotten. Your Soldiers will never be forgotten.”

The unveiling took place after the Fallen Sapper Tribute Fort Leonard Wood Memorial Chapel, a ceremony designed to pay humble and respectful homage to the 33 engineer Soldiers who died in combat from April 2010 to April 2011. Directly outside the chapel in the Engineer Memorial Grove, the wall made of Missouri red granite engraved with the names of engineers who made the ultimate sacrifice was unveiled in front of family members and fellow engineers from across the country. After the unveiling, family members and fellow engineers were invited to trace the names on the wall.

“We have terrible losses, but at the same time their memory will be forever engrained in this granite,” said Capt. Beau Mason, former commander of the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company. “I am glad these guys are etched in these walls for other engineers and everyone else to see their sacrifices and that all these guys loved what they did.”

Mason served with all five fallen Soldiers, and was commander of the 237th when three of the Soldiers were lost. He said he felt it was particularly important to have the memorial at Fort Leonard Wood and the Engineer School.

“This is a fitting tribute to these fine young men, and it is important that we remember their sacrifice,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Every day, all over the world, men and women in uniform put themselves in harms way to defend the ideals of freedom that are so important to all of us, and we must never forget how dangerous that can be. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these Soldiers.”

 

Capt. Beau Mason of the Virginia National Guard traces the name of one of the five Virginia Army National Guard combat engineers lost during combat operations in Global War on Terror that were among the more than 330 names etched on the Memorial Wall for Fallen Engineers unveiled April 7, 2011, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Mason served with all five of the Soldiers. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The following Virginia Army National Guard combat engineers have been lost in combat action in Iraq:

Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason, 20, of King George, Va., and Sgt. David A. Ruhren, 20, of Stafford, Va., died of wounds Dec. 21, 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, after their dining facility was attacked. Both were assigned to the West Point-based Company C, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.

Sgt. David E. Lambert, 39, of Cedar Bluff, Va., died of wounds Oct. 26, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, after the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device.  Sgt. Derek R. Banks, 24, of Newport News, Va., was also in the vehicle and died of wounds Nov. 14, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas. Both were assigned to the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah E. McNeal, 23, of Norfolk, Va., died of wounds April 6, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq, after his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.

The Virginia National Guard has lost 10 Soldiers in combat actions in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.

“The biggest thing to me is that it honors specifically engineers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Darryl Plude, command sergeant major of the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion. “It is paying tribute to guys that are out on the battlefield doing one of the most dangerous jobs.”

Plude was the senior noncommissioned officer for the 276th during the unit’s last mobilization to Afghanistan. He said the thinks the memorial symbolizes sacrifice and sends the message that these Soldiers won’t be forgotten.

“Their names are etched in that granite wall, and it will be here forever,” he said. “Many of us will come and go, but those guys will always be right here. I hope they bring young Soldiers here to show them the importance of their training and what they are doing.”

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