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13th ESC dedicates GWOT memorial, honors heroes in ‘long overdue’ ceremony

Email   Print   Share By Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
September 23, 2010 | News
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Alexis Harris, 7, and her mother, Jessica Lewis, etch the name of Pfc. Leroy Harris-Kelly after the 13th ESC memorial dedication Friday. Michael Heckman, Sentinel Staff
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Unveiling the 13th ESC memorial to its right are: Col. Terry Hildner, 13th ESC commander; and former 13th ESC commanders, retired Lt. Gen. Richard Hack and Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, commanding general, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, United States Army, Hawaii.
Soldiers, veterans, friends and family of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) saw a long-held idea become reality on Friday as the unit dedicated its memorial during a ceremony at Guidon Field.

The 13th ESC Memorial Pavilion includes a monument, a wall of honor inscribed with the names of fallen servicemembers, a meditation area and a walkway tribute of engraved bricks.

The wall of honor holds black granite plaques inscribed with the names of 106 active-duty and reserve component servicemembers who lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism while serving with the 13th ESC.

“They represent a cross-section of America,” Col. Terry Hildner, commander, 13th ESC, said. “They originate from across America, representing 33 states and the territory of Puerto Rico.”

The Soldiers whose names adorn the wall of honor covered enlisted, warrant and officer ranks. The oldest was 59. The youngest was 19.

“There is one common trait,” Hildner said. “Each believed in the ideals of freedom, personal liberty and the preservation of the common good as noble causes worth defending.

“All 106 gave their lives in defending those ideals.”

A long-held desire to honor those sacrifices and a coordinated effort from the 13th COSCOM Association to raise the $106,000 to complete the memorial design ensure the sacrifices will not be forgotten.

Hildner said the memorial was a long overdue tribute.

The idea for the memorial began following the command’s first deployment to Iraq, at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Shortly after, the 13th COSCOM Association was formed.

“Our first order of business was the design and construction of a memorial to serve as a tribute and a place to remember and reflect on our fallen comrades,” Kent Marquardt, president, 13th COSCOM Association, said. “Today we realize that dream.”

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Elder, memorial chairman, 13th COSCOM Association, served with the then-13th COSCOM during that first deployment in 2003.

He said it was frustrating that they could not have a memorial in Iraq, but he is happy to see the permanent memorial pavilion outside the 13th ESC headquarters.

“It was a good idea then and now it’s complete,” Elder said.

In addition to the Soldiers and veterans from the command, families of the fallen came to see their loved ones’ names on the black granite plaques. Members from four Gold Star families attended the dedication.

Jessica Lundy, fiancee of Sgt. Brandon Read, attended with Read’s parents.

Read, 21, was a gunner with the 125th Transportation Company, Kentucky National Guard, and was attached to 13th ESC during his deployment. He was killed Sept. 6, 2004, when his convoy was attacked near Q-West, Iraq, by insurgents with an improvised explosive device.

Lundy said the memorial was a fitting tribute to her fiance.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”

She said the wall shows her Soldier will not be forgotten.

“When you lose someone, you want to scream his name so everyone remembers it,” Lundy said. “This is screaming it.”

Read’s mother Kelli said her son followed his father’s footsteps into the Army. When Brandon was young, the family was stationed at Fort Hood. She was back on post last week for the ceremony and to see the memorial.

“I just think it’s wonderful,” she said about the dedication and the memorial.

For Alexis Harris, 7, the memorial is a physical symbol of a father she was too young to remember.

Private First Class Leroy Harris-Kelly, a truck driver assigned to the 596th Maintenance Company, was killed April 20, 2004, when his truck rolled over in Talil, Iraq.

Jessica Lewis, Alexis’ mother, said this memorial is another symbol to help Alexis know her father.

“She’s grown up knowing, in her words, her dad is a very important person because of all the dedications we’ve been to and the memorials we’ve attended,” Lewis said. “Even though she didn’t get to grow up knowing him, she still knows him.”

Memorials are dedicated to remembering fallen heroes and helping future generations know the sacrifices made for freedom.

“It’s true these Soldiers no longer stand on our formations, but they live on forever in the hearts of spouses, parents, loved ones, children, fellow Soldiers and friends,” Hildner said. “The dedication and unveiling of this memorial does not just honor their lives, but stands as a testament to the notion that they will not be forgotten by the countless people they touched – in and out of uniform.”
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