By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Two mothers embraced Wednesday afternoon while standing on the big, yellow and gold concrete patch in front of the 1st Cavalry Division's headquarters.
It was an embrace shared by two women who feel the same loss. Carol Resh and Jasmine Crowl were flanked by perfect rows of uniformed soldiers – men and women who once stood beside their sons, Capt. Mark T. Resh and Chief Warrant Officer-3 Cornell C. Chao.
Resh and Chao were killed on Jan. 28, 2007, north of An Najaf, Iraq, when their AH-64D Longbow Apache was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Crews from the 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, were called to the city of An Najaf to assist coalition troops who came in contact with enemy forces, according to information from the division.
The aircraft were attacked with heavy machine gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. Resh and Chao put their helicopter in the line of fire so another crew under attack could maneuver out of danger.
Thirteen minutes after the attack began, Resh and Chao's Apache was "mortally wounded by the relentless enemy fire," according to information from the division.
"It was a combat action witnessed by many of their fellow warriors – on the ground and in the air – all of whom remain awe-struck to this very day," said Lt. Col. Timothy DeVito, the battalion's commander.
Resh was 28 years old and Chao was 36.
The soldiers were given the Silver Star after their deaths, and their families were presented with those awards during a ceremony Wednesday at Fort Hood. The families wanted to wait for the unit to return from Iraq before accepting the Silver Stars.
Chao's mother, Crowl, said the battalion's soldiers were part of their family, and "we wanted them to be there." She's proud of all the soldiers serving in the war, she said.
Chao deployed to Iraq three times, Resh twice.
Chao was one of the battalion's most seasoned Apache pilots in command, DeVito said, and he achieved the highest score out of 34 crews during the last gunnery training event. The lieutenant colonel selected Chao as one of his few air mission commanders in Iraq because of his maturity, wisdom and judgment.
Resh was the battalion's logistical officer extraordinaire, DeVito said, moving, equipping and supplying the battalion with the apparent ease of a magician. He was one of the most skilled Apache gunners, DeVito said, and easily scored a perfect 300 points on his Army physical fitness test.
Neither Resh nor Chao would feel they deserved such fanfare, DeVito said, because they were both stoic professionals.
"The quiet-and-confident type, admired and respected by their comrades for their competence, loyalty and rock-solid dependability," he added.
Chao was a quiet person, Crowl agreed, and would be humbled by such a ceremony. She and the soldiers' other family members gathered after the ceremony at the Operation Iraqi Freedom Memorial at the far side of the division's parade field. They looked at the etched names of soldiers who died during previous deployments; talked with soldiers, many of whom worked closely with Resh and Chao; and posed for pictures next to the memorial's dark, granite slabs.
Pinned to Crowl's jacket was a photo button of her son, her "hero."
"I'm just so proud of him," Crowl said.
The soldiers' friends and families traveled to Fort Hood from across the United States. The Crowls came from Orange, Calif., the Reshes from Pennsylvania.
A monument in Resh's honor was installed in the family's Pennsylvania township, said his uncle, Daniel. He was a good kid, Daniel remembered; he even used to clean up a local park, getting down on his hands and knees to pick up trash.
Wednesday's ceremony was beautiful, Daniel said.
"He's just there, looking down at all this stuff," he added. "I'm a believer in all that."
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7547
According to the Army's Institute of Heraldry, the Silver Star is "awarded to a person who is, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party."
It is the third-highest decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States Armed Forces, according to information from Fort Hood public affairs, and is also the third-highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy,