The 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command held a memorial rededication and Gold Star ceremony at Fort Hood’s Hildner Field on Friday.
The family of Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Alton Raymond Kieschnick, received recognition as a Gold Star Family during the ceremony. Alton Raymond Kieschnick died when the plane he was in crashed near Fort Stockton, Texas, on April 26, 1975, while returning to Fort Hood after a training event.
Kieschnick’s son Greg Kieschnick, daughter Beth Patterson, granddaughter Hannah Patterson and widow Marty Schmidt were in attendance and presented the Gold Star Family lapel by Brig. Gen. Darren Werner, commander of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
“It’s very overwhelming that they’re recognize my father and his service for this country and the Army,” Greg said. “(My father) always cared about people, cared about the troops and wanted to make sure that they knew God was with them and watching over them.”
Greg said the one thing he wanted people to know about his father was how much he cared for others.
“When he was going to get out of the military, I know he wanted to go work at prisons to help those people turn their lives around and become better people once they got out,” Greg said.
Greg said he was unsure why the recognition took more than 43 years, but was pleased it had finally occurred and said the designation means his father gave his life in service to his country.
“I’m proud that he did, it makes me feel good that he was out there to help benefit other people in the country,” he said. “I just want to thank the people here at Fort Hood and the general for inviting us.”
Werner said there were instances when families did not receive Gold Star pins in years past, but a more concerted effort had been put forth since 9/11 with the increase of soldier deaths.
“We went back and checked and found that the Kieschnick family did not have Gold Stars, and we did the work to make them Gold Star members and now they are a Gold Star Family,” Werner explained.
Werner said the memorial rededication is an annual event and different people are recognized each year, and this year two families were recognized.
“Chaplain Alton Raymond Kieschnick died in service to our nation and to the soldiers of the 13th COSCOM,” Werner said. “I cannot begin to comprehend the grief felt by the loss of Chaplain Kieschnick or for any other of our Gold Star Family members. I know that the pin presented today serves as only a small token of what your family has sacrificed.”
Werner said he was honored to also have the family of Brig. Gen. Terry Hildner present at the ceremony. Hildner was the commander of the 13th ESC when he died in Afghanistan in 2012.
“The strength of our Army is our soldiers, the soldiers that stand around you today. The strength of our soldiers are our families,” Werner explained. “The Army recognizes that no one has given more for the nation than the families of our fallen. The profession of arms is dangerous, but necessary to preserve our liberties and to protect America’s interests.”
Werner said the ceremony was also the final event in celebrating the sustainment command’s 53rd anniversary and rededication for its memorial. The memorial was built to honor those who lost their lives in support of the Global War on Terror while serving as part of the 13th Sustainment Command.
“We come together for a more solemn occasion, but still a happy occasion, because we celebrate the lives of those that have come before us and we recognize the sacrifice they have provided to our nation,” Werner said. “This memorial does more than just remember our past; it guides our future. Every one of the names reminds us of the importance and the earnestness of our mission and our responsibility.”
He said the sacrifices of the fallen require the legacy left behind by the fallen must be carried forward.
“We will always remember and cherish the memory of those memorialized here and honor their sacrifice at every opportunity we have,” Werner said.
“It’s important to carry the legacy of the organization on so the soldiers who are participants today can recognize where this organization has come from,” Werner said. “All the soldiers that are here present got to see and recognize the 111 soldiers that have given their lives in support of the defense of the country.”