By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - What makes a memorial special?

It was a question Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, commander of 1st Cavalry Division, asked the crowd gathered Wednesday at the unit's memorial on Cooper Field.

"Why is this place special? Why is it so endued with emotion? This place enshrines the memory of those who heeded the call," he said. "We salute them for the spirit that moved them to serve and to have the courage for answering the noblest of calls."

The rededication ceremony added 17 names of those killed in Iraq and 145 names of those killed in Afghanistan while attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. Seventeen of those killed in Afghanistan were stationed at Fort Hood.

The names represent 10 brigades, eight divisions within the Army, sailors, airmen and three allied countries.

"They and their families are honored members of the First Team," said Allyn.

Thirty-three families with more than 100 members attended the ceremony to honor their fallen heroes.

Nikki Altmann, 25, said she will forever be grateful to Fort Hood for allowing her husband's name to be included on a memorial so easy for her to visit from her home in Smithville.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Altmann was part of the 25th Infantry Division, stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and attached to 1st Cavalry in Afghanistan, when he was killed on Christmas Day 2011 - two months shy of the couple's first wedding anniversary.

"When they leave, your biggest fear is that they won't come back," said Altmann. "Then that happens. The next fear is will they be remembered? That's hard."

Altmann also attended two other memorial services for her husband, and she said even though the ceremonies are all similar, each one gets a little bit harder.

"It reassures you that this is your new life. This is your new path and it's not something you chose," she said. "It was almost our first wedding anniversary, but we were planning for 50 years."

The 1st Cavalry Division dedicated its memorial, in the shape of the unit's shield-like emblem, in 2006 and it displayed about 700 names of those killed in Iraq before Wednesday's ceremony. To include names from Afghanistan, three walls were added down a path to the side of the previous memorial.

The 1st Cavalry Association built the original walls, said Dennis Webster, the association's executive director, but this was the first dedication the group didn't raise funds for.

"I'm always saddened to see us adding names," he said. "I'm looking forward to a period of time where we don't add names."

Altmann said she hopes people take time to visit the memorial.

"Not just this one, but any memorial," she said. "Please take the time to acknowledge and don't forget. It's nice to see that they get the credit they deserve."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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