By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – 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.
Derby's name is the fifth line, Jex's sixth, Ward's eighth and Othman's ninth.
Eleven from Jonathan's family traveled from the East Coast to Fort Hood as the 1st Cavalry rededicated its Iraq war memorial.
Unveiled Friday morning were 69 names of those killed while serving with or attached to the division from late 2008 to early 2010.
It's heart wrenching for John Roberge to see his son's name on that wall.
"It is," he said Friday. "But I'm glad to see it there. (I'm) very proud of him."
The men and women honored on the memorial swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, said Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, the division's commander.
"We the people," he said. "That's who they chose to save. That's who they fought to save. That's who they died to save. We the People. Us.
"Some of us they knew well: family, friends, neighbors, fellow troopers. The vast majority they never knew at all, some 300 million American citizens who have received this precious gift, this choice of life, a blood debt paid in full by those we remember today."
'One big family'
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.
Loves ones of fallen service members from all of the division's three deployments to Iraq gathered at the 1st Cavalry's Cooper Field.
It was hard for John to see the other families, too, 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. He and Derby were close friends.
Volesky wants loved ones of the fallen to know they are part of a bigger family now – the Army family.
John didn't want to attend the rededication. His whole family didn't.
"We didn't want to come," he said after the ceremony. "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. I'm really glad we came."
It kind of helped with the healing, he said, and it also kind of gave the family some closure.
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."
There for the soldiers
Two of those men – 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.
"My soldiers were good soldiers," Bates said later.
It gets harder when loved ones ask about what happened Feb. 9.
"I don't want to tell them what I saw," Bates said.
Instead he and Maher said they try to talk about good times and tell the families what kind of soldiers and men their loved ones were.
Roberge had one of the best hearts in the platoon, Bates said. Ward looked after his soldiers, Jex took his job the most seriously of anyone else and Derby was 100 percent dedication to the mission, he added.
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.
The guys deserve all this and more, Bates added.
The fallen troopers he served alongside are not just names on a wall, Maher said.
"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.
'Let us remember'
What will be done with the fallen's blessing, Bolger asked the crowd Friday, adding that in America, each has the freedom to decide.
"For my part, and for those of us here today, we will spend some of that freedom the right way, the best way – in quiet thanks, in solemn memory, of those who gave us this blessing," he said.
"Not long from now, our words and music will fade to echoes. Longer still, our memories will dim and grow faint. In some distant age, even this magnificent monument will dwindle to dust. But our fallen troopers' gift, their final blessing, will never pass away."
May those present embrace their loving gift, Bolger said.
"Let us live each day in ways worthy of their great sacrifice," he said. "Above all, let us remember.
"Let us remember."
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.
To read a copy of Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger's remarks in full, go to http://www.kdhnews.com/news/story.aspx?s=39913
69 names added to 1st Cavalry memorial
U.S. troops, a contractor and interpreters who died while serving with or attached to the 1st Cavalry Division and Multinational Division-Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2008-10:
Sgt. 1st Class George Stanciel, Aug. 19, 2008
Pfc. Tavarus D. Setzler, Oct. 2, 2008
Sgt. Ruben M. Fernandez III, Oct. 11, 2008
Pvt. Charles Y. Barnett, Nov. 20, 2008
Lt. Col. Garnet R. Derby, Feb. 9, 2008
Pfc. Albert R. Jex, Feb. 9, 2009
Pfc. Jonathan R. Roberge, Feb. 9, 2009
Sgt. Joshua A. Ward, Feb. 9, 2009
Jevan Ali Othman, Feb. 9, 2009
Cpl. Stephen S. Thompson, Feb. 14, 2009
Staff Sgt. Sean D. Diamond, Feb. 15, 2009
Staff Sgt. Mark C. Baum, Feb. 21, 2009
1st Lt. William E. Emmert, Feb. 24, 2009
Cpl. Brian M. Connelly, Feb. 26, 2009
Sgt. Jeffrey A. Reed, March 2, 2009
Spc. Jessica Y. Sarandrea, March 3, 2009
Cpl. Gary L. Moore, March 16, 2009
Staff Sgt. Raphael A. Futrell, March 25, 2009
Sgt. Edward W. Forrest Jr., April 10, 2009
Pfc. Bryce E. Gautier, April 10, 2009
Sgt. 1st Class Bryan E. Hall, April, 10, 2009
Cpl. Jason G. Pautsch, April 10, 2009
Staff Sgt. Gary L. Woods Jr., April 10, 2009
Sgt. Christopher D. Loza, April 10, 2009
Pfc. James B. McCoy, April 21, 2009
Cpl. Brad A. Davis, April 22, 2009
Staff Sgt. Leroy O. Webster, April 25, 2009
Spc. Jeremiah P. McCleery, May 2, 2009
Spc. Jake R. Velloza, May 2, 2009
Spc. Shawn D. Sykes, May 7, 2009
Spc. Jacob D. Barton, May 11, 2009
Thoalfakar Muhmad, May 17, 2009
1st Lt. Leevi K. Barnard, May 21, 2009
Staff Sgt. Paul F. Brooks, May 21, 2009
Maj. Jason E. George, May 21, 2009
Ahmed Jebur, May 21, 2009
Spc. Chad A. Edmundson, May 27, 2009
Pvt. Thomas E. Lee III, May 29, 2009
Sgt. Justin J. Duffy, June 2, 2009
Sgt. Christopher M. Kurth, June 4, 2009
Pvt. John C. DeSilva, June 5, 2009
Staff Sgt. Edmond L. Lo, June 13, 2009
Staff Sgt. Timothy A. David, June 28, 2009
Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., June 29, 2009
Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, June 29, 2009
Sgt. Robert L. Bittiker, June 29, 2009
Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, June 29, 2009
Pfc. Lucas M. Bregg, July 8, 2009
Chief Warrant Officer-2 Rodney A. Jarvis, July 13, 2009
Spc. Herberth A. Berrios-Campos, July 24, 2009
Sgt. 1st Class Johnny R. Polk, July 25, 2009
Sgt. 1st Class Felicia D. Hill, Aug. 13, 2009
Retired Master Sgt. Enos Ward, Aug. 14, 2009
2nd Lt. Joseph D. Fortin, Aug. 23, 2009
1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton Jr., Sept. 8, 2009
Samir R. Azzo, Sept. 23, 2009
Shatha K. Kenbar, Sept. 27, 2009
Spc. Paul E. Anderson, Oct. 1, 2009
Pfc. Daniel J. Rivera, Oct. 18, 2009
Staff Sgt. Bradley Espinoza, Oct. 19, 2009
Spc. Lukas C. Hopper, Oct. 30, 2009
Spc. Jason D. Hunt, Nov. 5, 2009
Pfc. Francheska Velez, Nov. 5, 2009
Staff Sgt. Ryan L. Zorn, Nov. 16, 2009
Pfc. Michael A. Rogers, Nov. 27, 2009
Pvt. Jhanner A. Tello, Dec. 10, 2009
Spc. Brushaun X. Anderson, Jan. 1, 2010
Sgt. David A. Croft Jr., Jan. 5, 2010
Pvt. Thomas E. Hodge II, Jan. 9, 2010
Source: 1st Cavalry Division