As part of a weeklong focus on remembering the fallen, Division West soldiers stood in the place of a sister division and laid a wreath at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial on Monday.
Four years ago, the colors of the Ivy Division were cased on Cameron Field before it moved from Fort Hood to Fort Carson, Colo., and First Army Division West arrived at Fort Hood to swap headquarters. Left on the grounds of Cameron Field was a memorial, dedicated and rededicated four times in honor of those who fell in battle under 4th Infantry’s Task Force Iron Horse.
“This Memorial Day, we express a profound gratitude for the acts of brave patriots who gave the full measure so that we can live free,” said Maj. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr., Division West commander.
Saying the division should remember all the nation’s fallen, Phipps spoke of a particular responsibility to pay respects to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines memorialized on the division’s own grounds.
“We stand before this beautiful monument today to lay a wreath of flowers as our act of respect and gracious reverence to the 432 soldiers who served under the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq,” Phipps said.
“In the center of this monument stands a statue of a kneeling soldier before the boots, rifle, helmet and dog tags of his fallen comrades,” Phipps said. “With him stands a young girl, reaching out to touch the soldier.”
The division began its weeklong focus Friday with a Run to Remember, with shadow runs occurring at the home of the division’s other brigades at Fort Bliss, Fort McCoy, Wis., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“Today, we kick off with a Run to Remember,” Phipps said, “I also want each of you to reach out to families who have lost a loved one to war, because this is now ‘our’ Memorial Day.”
Following a division run, a select group of soldiers gave their testimonials about some of their fallen comrades to a somber crowd of peers.
“I have the distinct privilege of, each day, leading America’s sons and daughters. It also brings heartache knowing that the orders I give could lead to the loss of one of America’s finest,” said Capt. Orlando Craig, an observer/controller trainer team chief with the 1st Battalion, 395th Engineer Regiment, 479th Field Artillery, Division West.
“These fears were realized on March 22, 2007, after ordering Sgt. Freeman Gardner to dismount his vehicle to provide security for some of his fellow soldiers,” Craig said. “He was killed by (a bomb) blast in Baghdad, Iraq. Sgt. Gardner left many memories with me.”
In observance of Memorial Day, Division West soldiers and leaders plan to pay homage to the fallen who paved the way for today’s modern military.
Division West units will visit veterans’ homes and participate in ceremonies at veterans’ cemeteries.
“We know all those who have served in the past and have sacrificed. We know them through the history books,” Phipps said. “Over the past 10 years, it has become so that it is no longer history books we refer to but our own memories, and now it is personal.”