• June 30, 2016

Fallen soldier’s family travels from East Coast to attend ceremony

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Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 12:00 pm

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

John Roberge looks at the name on the wall and it is heart wrenching.

It's on the back slab, facing Battalion Avenue. Seven entries down under "OIF 08-10." All capital letters.

PFC JONATHAN R. ROBERGE

9 FEB 09

Pfc. Jonathan R. Roberge was 22 years old when he was killed by a roadside bomb blast in Mosul, Iraq. He is the son of John and Pauline Roberge of Leominster, Mass.

Three others from the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, died in the attack: Lt. Col. Gary Derby, Sgt. Joshua Ward and Spc. Albert Jex. Also killed was the team's interpreter, Jevan Ali Othman, a 27-year-old who was set to be sworn as a U.S. citizen in May.

Eleven from Jonathan's family traveled from the East Coast to Fort Hood as the 1st Cavalry rededicated its Iraq war memorial. The Roberges were just one of the families who traveled to Fort Hood for the rededication, and it wasn't just those of soldiers who died during the last year in Iraq. Loved ones of fallen service members from all of the division's three deployments to Iraq gathered at the 1st Cavalry's Cooper Field.

John didn't want to attend the rededication. His whole family didn't.

"But, on the other hand, you're sorry if you didn't, and now we're here and we're really glad we did it," he said after the ceremony. "I'm really glad we came."

Though it is hard to look at, John takes some comfort in seeing his son's name on the wall.

"(I'm) very proud of him," he said.

It was hard for John to see the other families, especially those of the three who died alongside his son that day in February.

"You know what they're going through; they know what you're going through," he said.

"We're all like one big family."

That feeling is important, said Col. Gary Volesky.

Volesky led the 3rd Brigade in Iraq and will soon hand it over to another colonel and move on to his next assignment.

Volesky wants loved ones of the fallen to know they are part of a bigger family now - the Army family.

The Roberges met the soldiers with whom Jonathan served and they heard the funny stories - stories that didn't surprise them knowing his personality and knack of talking his way out of things.

These are guys John heard about. They're the ones with whom his son went to battle, he said. They all put their lives on the lines, he continued before stopping to choke back tears.

Jonathan loved those guys and he loved being a tanker.

"It was comforting," John said. "It was like he was with all his brothers."

Two of those brothers - 1st Lt. Jason Bates and Spc. Keith Maher - stood close by the Roberge family Friday morning. They and others from the battalion volunteered to help the families of the fallen during their time in Central Texas.

Jonathan, Ward and Jex were in Bates' platoon in Iraq. He feels a lot of responsibility for what happened to them.

He had to be at the ceremony for the families. Not for him, but for his soldiers.

The battalion came together and showed a lot of support to the Roberges, John said.

The rededication ceremony was well done, too, he said. It got to the point, but showed a lot of respect to the fallen and their families.

These are the things that make Maher love the military, he said, adding later that the fallen troopers he served alongside are not just names on a wall.

"It's not closure," he said. "I don't look at it like that."

They're still standing right here, he said, pointing to his side.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

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