NEWS | April 15, 2012

A solemn memorial: Guardsmen remember Soldiers lost since 9/11

By Air National Guard Master Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral Colorado National Guard

"I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom." – Letter from President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow and mother to five Soldiers, Nov. 21, 1864

Soldiers and Airmen alike stood at somber attention at Colorado National Guard state headquarters April 15 in honor of the Colorado Guard members who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the Global War on Terror.

The day marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Colorado Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Daniel A. Romero.

In addition to being the state's first combat death since the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, Romero also has the solemn honor of being the National Guard's first GWOT casualty.

Romero, 30, a Special Forces communications chief, was killed in action April 15, 2002, near Kandahar, Afghanistan, during an ordnance disposal operation. The explosion, involving 107-mm rockets, killed three others U.S. Soldiers and injured another.

Remembering a brother

Romero was one of approximately 100 members of Company B, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Headquartered in Pueblo, the unit was called to active duty Dec. 5, 2001.

"I knew Dan – a true operator," said Lt. Col. Doug Paul, now commander of the 5/19th SFG(A), who deployed with him. "I wasn't there April 15th when he died. I remember getting the news in a text format when we were in the field (in Afghanistan). I remember the team seeing that and doing our own memorial out there for Dan."

"He's gone, but he's not forgotten," said Paul. "His spirit lives on. We remember him at our armory. In our training, we teach the new guys looking to go into SF about him. And every time we put on our berets: That's remembering Dan."

Romero's decorations include an Army Service Ribbon, a Noncommissioned Officers Ribbon, a National Defense Service Medal, and a Colorado Emergency Service Ribbon with device. He also earned a parachute badge and Special Forces tab.

Romero was a traditional Guard member and was self-employed in the construction industry.

"We are a nation that remains the beacon of hope for liberty – due in large part of the selfless sacrifices of those who've given the last full measure of devotion – and to you who are standing here today, wearing the uniform so proudly," said Adjutant General of Colorado Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, commander of the Colorado National Guard. "I thank you for your service, I thank you for loving your fellow Soldiers, your fellow Airmen, and for being who you are: great Americans who miss terribly those who've given the ultimate sacrifice."

A memorial

At the heart of the Colorado National Guard headquarters is a plaza that will soon be dedicated to all the men who have been lost in the ongoing war. In addition to Romero, three other Soldiers have also given their lives in the Global War on Terror.

"Today's ceremony and the memorial outside serve as a reminder of Dan Romero, Luis Reyes, Jon Stiles and Dave Carter, that we will never forget them, their duty, their honor, their ultimate sacrifice to the mission, to their units, to the Colorado National Guard, and our nation," said Assistant Adjutant General for Army Brig. Gen. Dana Capozzella, commander of the Colorado Army National Guard. "We have a duty to remember them, and speak about them so that future generations of Guardsmen will always remember them and understand what that memorial outside stands for. Foster that bond of brotherhood and sisterhood amongst yourselves as we fight this long war on terror. It's your duty to remember them and to teach others, so that future generations can remember them as well."

The Guard family

At Romero's passing in 2005, then- Adjutant General of Colorado Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney accompanied Chaplain (then-Maj.) Andrew Meverden to perform the casualty notification.

It was Whitney's belief that because he asked the Soldier to go to war, he should also personally notify the family when a loved one was lost.

The tradition of a general officer making such notifications continues today.

"I wholeheartedly hope that those of you who are part of the Colorado National Guard , that you never have to alert another family of another loss of one of our Guardsmen who paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Capozzella, who notified the Carter family. "It's the hardest thing we've ever done in our lives – to have to tell a family that their loved one is no longer here."

          Sgt. Luis Reyes

On Nov. 18, 2005, Sgt. Luis Reyes, 26, a technical engineer with the 947th Engineer Company, died as a result of injuries sustained in a bus accident in Kuwait, while en route to Iraq. The accident injured nine other members of his unit.

Prior to entering the Army, Reyes, of Aurora, Colo., was a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadet at Montbello High School in Denver, where he was the cadet logistics officer and received the Sergeant Major Award for outstanding performance.

Reyes completed Basic Military Training at Fort Sill, Okla., in August 1998, and was the honor graduate of his unit.

Reyes was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for superior proficiency in his performance of duties, and the Expert Marksmanship badge with both Rifle and Grenade bars.

          Sgt. Jon Stiles

On Nov. 13, 2008, Sgt. Jon Stiles, 38, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was killed in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during a route clearing mission.

Stiles, a Soldier from Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery, was augmenting the 927th Engineer Company, 769th Engineer Battalion (SAPPER), Louisiana Army National Guard.

He was mobilized for Afghanistan in March 2008.

Stiles was also a member of the Colorado Army National Guard State Honor Guard. He was a former Marine and served on active duty in the Army prior to enlisting in the Colorado Army National Guard.

          Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter

Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter, 47, a CH-47 Chinook pilot, was among 30 service members who were killed Aug. 6, 2011, in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when their helicopter crashed.

Carter was an instructor pilot and member of Detachment 1, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 135th General Support Aviation, 89th Troop Command.

Afghanistan was Carter's second combat deployment with the 2-135th GSAB. His previous deployment was to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Company B is the Colorado Army National Guard's heavy lift helicopter unit and was tasked to transport troops and cargo throughout Afghanistan. The unit is still deployed but is scheduled to return in the next several weeks.

A prayer for the living

"Continue to bring comfort to the families, loved ones and comrades of these Soldiers, who carry always the burden of their loss," said Meverden, now a colonel and the Colorado National Guard state chaplain. "As we remember these Soldiers, my we also remember their families and respect them in their pain and loss. May we who wear the uniform receive inspiration from their lives, and a renewed commitment in the courage they displayed supporting oppressed people and helping maintain the security of our nation."