By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – The same day that about 250 soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division were welcomed back from war, the division said final goodbyes to 11 during a monthly memorial ceremony.
Friends, family and fellow soldiers of the 11 gathered in the 1st Cavalry Division Chapel shortly before a plane touched down at Gray Army Airfield.
Speaking about Staff Sgt. Terry D. Wagoner was one of the toughest things Staff Sgt. Robert Jones said he ever had to do.
"Despite what we know can happen, no one is ever prepared to lose someone they are close to," he said. "Knowing that my friend died a hero doesn't make his death easier to accept and it doesn't fill the emptiness left in my life as a result of his passing."
Wagoner died Sept. 14 in Mugdadiyah, Iraq, when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. He and three other soldiers from Bravo Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, died that day: 23-year-old Cpl. Todd A. Motley; 22-year-old Cpl. Jonathan Rivadeneira; and 24-year-old Pfc. Christopher M. McCloud. Wagoner was 28.
Jones quoted John Stuart Mill: "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
Wagoner was that better man, Jones said. Wagoner believed there was something worth fighting for. Wagoner wasn't a soldier simply because it was a job. Wagoner wasn't planning on using his college fun or trying to escape a boring life, Jones said.
"He could have succeeded in any job he chose; however, he chose to be a soldier."
Wagoner believed in what he was doing. It seems a cliche to say someone was dedicated to the Army, the mission and their unit, Jones said, because a generic variation of that phrase is printed on every Army award citation. But in Wagoner's case, there was truth in that passage.
Wagoner, who was nicknamed "Sparky," was a dedicated soldier, but more than anything else, a friend.
"He was energetic, friendly, curious, addicted to coffee, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and prayed every night," Jones said. "His hands were never clean because he was always working on something."
Jones said he found peace in the knowledge that he would one day see his friend again.
"By that time he'll probably have a garage door opener installed on the pearly gates and trying to rebuild angels' wings to give them more horsepower," Jones said with a smile. "I'm convinced that he'll be there waiting with his crooked smile, a cup of coffee and a name tag on his shirt that says, 'Sparky.'"
Wagoner is survived by his wife, Katherine, and daughter, Diana.
Cpl. Todd A. Motley was quiet, always displayed a genuine smile on his face and was well liked and admired by everyone, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ramey. He was everyone's friend and brother.
"The first day he arrived, I knew he was a top-notch soldier," Ramey said. "As a platoon sergeant you couldn't ask for a better soldier than Corporal Motley."
Motley was named "Beast" by soldiers in the platoon because of his stature. That stature was instrumental when it came to missions dealing with children. He took pride and privilege in helping the children of Iraq, whether it was giving them a pencil, candy or playing soccer with them.
Pfc. Christopher M. McCloud, a native of Athens, was known as "Tex" in the platoon, said Staff Sgt. Reginald Harris. He was a motivated, hard-working soldier who didn't limit himself to his job as a Bradley fighting vehicle driver. When leaders needed dismounts, he always volunteered.
"It was always a common sight to see him ensuring his equipment and his Bradley was ready to go at all times," Harris said. "This would impress me because I know that after a longer mission in 120 degrees, sometimes more, I would be exhausted, but when I would see him out there, it would give me motivation to push on just a little bit further."
Harris quoted McCloud's friend and fellow soldier still in Iraq, Spc. David Lasseter.
"A harder worker, there is none. A better friend, no way. Tex will be remembered always in our hearts."
Fellow soldiers witnessed Cpl. Jonathan Rivadeneira, a combat medic, treat people while under fire and in full combat condition while never stopping to blink.
"His scouts would take him anywhere and he would bravely follow," Spc. Michael Watson said.
"Riva" was the type of medic who continuously made rounds to check on any recovering soldiers. He displayed a genuine concern for the health and welfare of every soldier, Watson said.
Watson quoted the troop's senior medic, saying that Rivadeneira was full of life and laughter.
"His facial expressions gave his good heart away and sold the story of his life. He had this unending inquisitiveness and an honesty, that combined, allowed him to ask any question anyone could think of."
Spc. Edgar E. Cardenas was kind, helpful, humble and had a knack for fixing things, said Sgt. Jose Flores. The 34-year-old was a strong believer in fate and told Flores that when it was time, there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it from happening.
"With that being said, I believe that Cardenas accepted his fate and he is OK with whatever God had planned for him," Flores said. "Spc. Cardenas is probably looking down at me from heaven, telling me to get off the podium before I make him look bad."
Cardenas was a soldier in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, when he died on Aug. 22.
Spc. Christopher G. Patton was a friend to those who had a hard time finding friends, said Sgt. Eric Martinez. The 21-year-old loved God, music and food. He loved to eat and the contents of the meal didn't really matter. He even enjoyed eating Meals Ready to Eat, Martinez said with a smile.
Patton's size may have been imposing, but his nature was not, Martinez said. He also had a unique outlook on life. He was going to live the way he wanted to, regardless of what others thought or said.
Patton died Sept. 1. He was a soldier in Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry.
Cpl. William T. Warford III always lightened the mood and make people happy, said Staff Sgt. Denise Bullard. Bullard quoted the 3rd Brigade Combat Team's chaplain, who said, "Whether it was in the weight room or in the motor pool, Troy pushed those around him to get better as soldiers and as people." Warford lived his life with a boldness and confidence that shored up those around him when they were filled with personal doubts and fears, she continued. The Marlin native died Sept. 5 while serving with Foxtrot Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion.
Spc. Dane R. Balcon wanted to be an officer, but first wanted to get experience as an enlisted soldier, said Capt. David Clay. Balcon's mother, Carla, is a captain and instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, but Balcon felt the Army would give him the best opportunity to hone his leadership skills.
"Dane Balcon seemed to have it all figured out," Clay said. "I only wish that this bright, talented young soldier were still around to accomplish all of his goals."
Balcon died Sept. 5 while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He was 19.
Spc. Marisol Heredia was quiet, smart and hardworking, said Staff Sgt. William Enlow. Those were qualities the fuel section was lacking, he added. Heredia was a petroleum distribution specialist and when she arrived in Enlow's platoon, was immediately ready to get to work and made in immediate impact.
"She would work so hard that the men in the platoon started feeling bad and would try to outwork her," Enlow said.
Her quiet ways couldn't cover the smile that would exemplify the enjoyment she achieved from a good day's work, he added.
Heredia was serving with Golf Company, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, when she died on Sept. 7. She was nine days away from her 20th birthday.
Staff Sgt. Michael L. Townes was the noncommissioned officer soldiers in the motor pool for Echo Company, 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment were looking for. He had strong ethics and his leadership and mentorship were evident when he helped the other mechanics, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Edwards.
Whenever a mechanic would have problems, Townes was ready to give guidance, Edward said.
"He would walk out of the office with a mischievous grin on his face, walk over to the distressed mechanic and proceed to ask him or her a couple of questions. Nine times out of 10, the mechanic would realize the solution to the dilemma and Staff Sgt. Townes would walk away."
Townes died Sept. 16. He was 29.
Staff Sgt. Kevin R. Brown, 38, was a part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team for more than eight years before he died on Sept. 25. He was assigned to Alpha Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry since April 2006 and was everything from a infantryman, a tanker and cavalry scout during his nearly 20-year career. He was the type of person who led by example, said Staff Sgt. Fred Turner.
"He would get down and dirty with the Joes down in the motorpool and also have ready any paperwork that needed to be done so we could go home to spend time with our families," Turner said.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547