June 4, 2009

Virginians pay tribute to fallen military heroes

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — Members of the Virginia National Guard joined fellow citizens of the commonwealth in paying tribute to fallen members of the military in the Virginia Wall of Honor Ceremony May 21 in Richmond and during Memorial Day observations across the state May 25.

  Wall of Honor 2009

Virginia National Guard Soldiers view the photos of fallen Virginia military members memorialized on the Virginia Wall of Honor in Richmond. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“It has been said, and we embrace these words today, that a nation that does not cherish the memory of the loved and lost shall not stand long among the great nations of the world,” said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We gather today not only as Americans, but especially as Virginians, to remember our loved ones and friends who willingly served our nation and paid the ultimate price to secure the freedoms that we enjoy today.”

The Virginia Wall of Honor was dedicated in 2007 to honor Virginians who have died in the Global War on Terrorism and this year’s ceremony honored 184 Virginians. The Wall is in the lobby of the Virginia Attorney General at 900 E. Main St. All branches of the Armed Services are represented, including the United States Coast Guard, with heroes from the active forces, reserves, and National Guard.

Across the state, Virginia Guardsmen took part in Memorial Day ceremonies in their local communities.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable, Assistant Adjutant General of Virginia – Army, presented a wreath from the Virginia Guard to the American Legion at the Virginia War Memorial in May 25. Thousands gathered at the Richmond memorial to remember the men and women who died in service to their country.

Capt. Jonathan Toland, logistics officer for the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat team, was the guest speaker for the American Legion Post 150’s 33rd Veterans’ Day Memorial Ceremony at the Sterling Veterans’ Memorial site in Sterling, Va.

“We are here today in remembrance of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country,” Toland said. “It’s all too easy to treat Memorial Day as the first three-day weekend of the summer vacation season, a great day to fire up the grill, or a long-awaited day at the beach, all things I have been guilty of in the past.  But the simple act of your being here, taking time to attend this service, shows that this day is about more, and for this you have my gratitude.”

The Wall of Honor brought together military units from across Virginia. Fort Monroe’s Training and Doctrine Command Band provided the music, the Langley Air Force Base Honor Guard posted the colors and fired a 21-gun salute, cadets from Fork Unit Military Academy sang the National Anthem and Blackhawk helicopters from the Virginia Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conducted a flyover near the end of the event.

Representatives from the Active, Reserve and National Guard components of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard took turns reading all the names of the fallen Virginians. Col. Frank Pedrotty of the Virginia Air Guard and Maj. David Kaulfers and Maj. Patrick O’Leary of the Virginia Army National Guard represented the Virginia Guard in reading the names.

The Wall itself is 38.5 feet long. Each block frame contains 12 individual profiles. Each individual profile is 7 inches by 14 inches, and each photo is 5 inches by 7 inches.

Accompanying the wall is a framed Virginia State flag, flown in Iraq by Cpl. Jonathan Bowling of Martinsville. Bowling served with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division. He was killed in an enemy ambush in Al-anbar Province, Iraq on Jan. 26, 2005, and the flag was donated to the Wall of Honor by his father, Virginia State Police Master Trooper Darrell Bowling of Martinsville.

In addition, a pair of boots, and a rifle with helmet on top, stands in front of a Virginia and American flag, in a traditional military tribute to the fallen.

The following Virginia Guard Soldiers are remembered on the Virginia Wall of Honor:

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Staff Sgt. Craig W. Cherry, 39, of Winchester, Va., and Sgt. Bobby E. Beasley, 36, of Inwood, W.Va. died on Aug. 7, 2004 in Ghazikel, Afghanistan, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Both soldiers were assigned to the Army National Guards 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division (Light Infantry), Winchester, Va.
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Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason, 20, of King George, Va., and Sgt. David A. Ruhren, 20, of Stafford, Va. died Dec. 21, 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, when their dining facility was attacked. Both were assigned to the Army National Guard's 276th Engineer Battalion, West Point, Va.

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Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Va., and Sgt. 1st Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Va., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 20, 2007 when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were in crashed. Kelly was assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters of the Virginia Army National Guard in Blackstone, Va. and Booker was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, Virginia Army National Guard, Sandston, Va.

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Sgt. David E. Lambert, 39, of Cedar Bluff, Va, died Oct. 26, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command of the Virginia National Guard.

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Sgt. Derek R. Banks, 24, of Newport News, Va., died Nov. 14, 2007 in San Antonio of wounds suffered Oct. 25 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command, Virginia National Guard, West Point, Va.

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Staff Sgt. Jeremiah E. McNeal, 23, of Norfolk, Va., died April 6, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command, Virginia Army National Guard, West Point, Va.

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Sgt. Jesse A. Ault, 28, of Dublin, Va., died April 9, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds suffered in Tunnis, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, Virginia Army National Guard, Roanoke, Va.

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