One year ago today eight American Heroes gave their lives and 22 more were wounded when OP Fritsche and COP Keating were attacked by the enemy in Kamdesh, Afghanistan.
Many of you came together here on this blog and at The Burn Pit (blog of the American Legion). The American Legion Burn Pit Blog has updates here and here telling about what so many great Americans stepped up to do for the survivors and their families in an unprecedented short amount of time.
Today is an incredibly gorgeous day across our land. Football season is in full swing. The season is changing from Summer to Fall. But I ask that you please take some time to read about the Fallen Heroes of COP Keating. Click on each link below to read more about what their families, friends, Brothers-in-Arms and community members have said about these men. It is the VERY least we can do to REMEMBER them and HONOR their sacrifice.
Last night I was chatting with one of the survivors who told me that those who are still at Fort Carson will gather at the Post Memorial today to pay their respects to these eight Heroes. While I'm not at Fort Carson I will continue today, and every day, to keep these men, their Brothers-In-Arms and their Commanders in my thoughts and prayers.
May God rest the souls of these men and continue to providew comfort to their families and friends.
SSG Vernon Martin was known as a giving husband and a loving father to his three children ages 2, 4 and 6 at the time of his death. He was also known as a great brother. SSG Martin married his high school sweetheart and aspired to work with children in a youth development program when he left the Army.
SSG Martin was known for his laugh, his loving and giving spirit and his love of children and their causes.
He was a native of Savannah, GA. He entered the Army in August 2004 and had served one tour in Iraq prior to his deployment to Afghanistan. You can read more about the man and and Soldier he was in this article from KKTV. There are so me very touching comments at the end of the article.
SSG Justin T. Gallegos, a native of Tuscon, Arizona, was on his third deployment. He had previously served two deployments to Iraq and had been awarded, among other awards, three Purple Hearts.
SSG Gallegos was the father of a five year old son.
Retired Army CSM Don Becker told a story about one of the times when SSG Gallegos was wounded in Iraq and earned his first Purple Heart. Becker says Gallegos' vehicle was in a convoy when it was bombarded with grenades and machine gun fire and Gallegos took a chunk of shrapnel in his arm. "But he continued to fight," Becker says, until one final grenade was thrown. Becker says Gallegos told him, "I saw the guy that threw it. But I didn't shoot at him. So I started to open my mouth of course to ask why. He looked at me and said he was standing behind a bunch of kids."
You can read more about this SSG Gallegos in this article from KKTV.
SGT Joshua J Kirk was a husband and father of a three year old daughter
At the Memorial service at Fort Carson in October 2009 it is reported by Military Times that chuckles rippled through the nearly full chapel as letters were read from soldiers still in Afghanistan recounting the fallen troops’ lives and praising their bravery and friendship. “I would have followed that man straight to hell if he thought it was a good idea,” one letter said of Sgt. Joshua T. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine.
In this article from the Portland Press Herald Sgt Kirk's cousin, Ben Dinsmore of Killeen, Texas, said "Kirk had dreams of joining the Army when he was a kid. He said they played Army when they were growing up.
''We were thick and thin,'' Dinsmore said. ''We would grab any stick that looked like a gun and run around in the woods playing Army. I joined the Coast Guard and he joined the Army right around the same time.''
There's much more about SGT Kirk at this link
SGT Joshua M Hardt entered the Army in June 2006. This was his second deployment. His first was to Iraq. A Soldier who served with SGT Hardt said, "He was an amazing person and a great teacher." Another commented that he always knew how to light up a room with his smile.
In an article in the LA times I found this about SGT Hardt:
"While he was still in high school, Joshua Hardt took one look at his future wife, Olivia, and told friends that some day he would be with her. That first date was low-key: a movie and Chinese food. He gave Olivia a piggyback ride into the cafe. Later that night, he asked if he could give her a good-night kiss. She declined, but he touched his lips to her forehead. She reciprocated with a kiss on the cheek. He ran down the driveway, kicked his heels in the air and exclaimed "Yes!" his wife remembers. "He was animated like that," she said"
You can learn more about SGT Hardt from this article and the touching comments published by KKTV
SGT Michael Scusa left behind his wife, Alyssa, and their 1 year old son Connor who was named for one of SGT Scusa's fallen comrades. He joined the Army in 2005 and had served one tour in Iraq. He re-enlisted in the Army not long before deploying to Afghanistan.
The Press of Atlantic City notes that "As a teenager, Michael Scusa used to jog down Kentucky Avenue in the Villas with a backpack filled with bricks to simulate Army training."
The article also states, "Scusa left an impression on his Lower Cape May Regional High School teachers, who remembered him fondly as a sometimes-quiet student who blossomed over the years. He was enthusiastic about joining the military, they said. He enlisted while still in high school and shipped out shortly after graduation. He visited his (high school) alma mater several times, but the first time he walked the halls in uniform and chatted with teachers was the most memorable. He had changed, said his freshman English teacher Chris Rosenberg, who became friends with Scusa. "He was a man," Rosenberg said.
From KKTV: "Alyssa says she will remember her husband Michael as a goofy, fun loving person, who made everyone smile." And "Michael's father-in-law tells 11 News that Michael was proud to be a soldier. He believed in his mission and his family."
SPC Stephan Mace joined the Army in early 2008 and was on his first deployment. He was from Lovettsville, VA, the second eldest of four brothers. SPC Mace was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by his mother, father, three brothers and grandparents.
There is a moving video here of SPC Mace's final journey home.
SPC Mace is described as a Moto Cross champion, football player, hunter and all around fun-loving, loyal friend. I urge you to take some time to read this story published by CNN of an interview done with SPC Mace's mother Vanessa Adelson. I was moved to tears on more than one occassion.
In this article from the Colorado Springs Gazette his mother said, “There was a peace about him,” she said. “He told me many times: ‘I trust everybody in my unit to cover my back.’ He loved those boys he fought with like brothers.”
She said he showed no fear as he returned to the remote outpost where he later died
KKTV has more about SPC Mace.
SGT Christopher T Griffin of Kincheloe, MI was 24 and known for his infectious smile.
From the Colorado Springs Gazette:
Tom McKee, a classmate who is now a student teacher at Rudyard High, said the whole town knew that Griffin would someday don his nation’s uniform.
“He always wanted to join the service,” McKee said. “Any time we played, we were Army men.”
At Rudyard, Griffin played football and wrestled. He was known as a generous kid with an easy laugh.
“He was a quiet person who had a great sense of humor and always smiled,” McKee said. “In the 15 years I knew him, I never heard him say a negative word.”
A rabid Green Bay Packers fan, he showed versatility on the high school gridiron. “If he had to learn a new position in a day, he would do it,” McKee said.
Griffin visited his home town after he’d joined the Army. McKee said he appeared content with the decision.
“He said he was doing what he loved to do.”
PFC Kevin C Thomson was born in California but raised in Reno, NV by his mother. He enlisted in the Army in 2008. This was his first deployment.
From Freedom Remembered - PFC Thomson was known as a young man full of spirit and was very close to his mother - it was just the two of them. He was also known as a consumate prankster and for embracing his love of country. Kevin lost 100 pounds so that he could join the Army. He was always known for being there for anyone who needed him.
KKTV has more about PFC Thomson at their link.
REMEMBER THEM ALWAYS!