On Monday morning 31 May 2010, COL Bill Ostlund (former 173rd, 2-503 Battalion Commander and current Deputy Commander, 75th Ranger Regiment) and I met the Bravo Bulls at the Ranger Memorial on Fort Benning to remember two of their fallen comrades who were Army Rangers, SSG David Howard and SSG John Lopez.
The Ranger Memorial at Fort Benning
LTC Lombardo (Ret) invited COL Ostlund to say a few words as the Bravo Bulls prepared to form up and march to the Memorial.
It was heart warming to watch as COL Ostlund spoke to the Vietnam Veterans. As I stood back I couldn't help but think about the day that the "torch" will be passed to men like COL Ostlund and many other "youngsters" to continue on the traditions of the Sky Soldiers from all eras and wars. While it won't be for some time there is no doubt that the Sky Soldier traditions are very sacred, important and WILL be kept alive.
The Bravo Bulls, lead by LTC Lombardo, march to the site where they will lay the wreath in memory of SSG Howard and SSG Lopez
LTC Roy Lombardo remembering SSG Howard and SSG Lopez by telling stories he remembered about each of them. Parts of the stories were about what each man was doing in battle when he died. Other parts were entertaining remembrances of each man.
The 2-503 Bravo Bulls at parade rest as LTC Lombardo unveils the Memorial wreath while continuing to remember SSG Howard and SSG Lopez
2-503 Bravo Bulls
2-503 Bravo Bulls
LTC Lombardo after unveiling the Memorial Wreath at the Ranger Memorial, Fort Benning, GA
As LTC Lombardo continues to talk about SSG Howard and SSG Lopez one of them Bravo Bulls falls out of formation to place a flag in the wreath in memory of his battle buddy. A very touching moment.
Bravo Bulls during TAPS
After LTC Lombardo concluded his remarks he commented that, "normally at this time a bugler would play TAPS. But since we don't have a bugler we'll just say it." LTC Lombardo began to say the words to TAPS. He began, "Day is done. Gone the sun." As his voice began to crack a couple of the men chimed in in song ♫ From the hills ♫ and at that point their voices broke with emotion but 2 or 3 more men picked up with ♫ from the lake, from the skies. ♫ And more voices broke as others came in. ♫ All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh. ♫ I had tears streaming down my face. It was an incredibly poignant and honorable moment. You could hear the wind blowing through the trees and the sound of the water running in the brook beneath the bridge we were standing on. After about a minute LTC Lombardo dismissed the men. They continued their silence briefly as they put an arm around one another, shook hands or just nodded their heads. I cannot even begin to tell you how special the moment was. I felt a bit like an interloper then realized that it was just as important for me to honor and remember these men even if I didn't know them. They are American heroes and it is my duty (one I am HAPPY to participate in) to remember and thank them for their ultimate sacrifice.
The 173rd, 2-503 Vietnam Era Bravo Bulls who were in attendance. What a great photo!
I am grateful to these amazing men for allowing me to share this moment and these memories with them.