Memorial Day is a day we set aside to honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Originally known as Decoration Day, celebrated on May 30, the day to honor our war dead began as a day for the Union, or northern states, to honor those killed in the Civil War. After World War I, the day was expanded to include all who died during all wars and was generally adopted by the entire nation. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May and went into effect in 1971.
While I believe we should honor those who cashed in their blank check of “up to and including their life” every day, here are a few names I would like to remember.
Sgt. Douglas James Riney, a fueler with Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was killed after encountering hostile enemy forces near Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct. 19, 2016. Capt. Scott Rankin, commander of Bravo Troop Regimental Support Squadron, said Riney saved his life during that particular ambush.
Staff Sgt. John W. Perry and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, both with the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, died Nov. 12, 2016, when an improvised explosive device was detonated by a suicide bomber in Bagram, Afghanistan. Sgt. 1st Class Allan E. Brown died Dec. 6, 2016, in Bethesda, Maryland, from wounds received in the same attack.
On June 2, 2016, eight soldiers and one U.S. Military Academy at West Point cadet were killed during a training accident on Fort Hood when the vehicle they were in was struck by a flash flood at a low water crossing. Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez, Pvt. Eddy Raelaurin Gates, Spc. Christine Faith Armstrong, Pfc. Brandon Austin Banner, Pfc. Zachery Nathaniel Fuller, Pvt. Isaac Lee Deleon, Spc. Yingming Sun and Pvt. Tysheena Lynette James — all with 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment — and cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey all died during the accident.
On Nov. 23, 2015, Sgt. 1st Class Toby Childers, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen B. Cooley, Sgt. 1st Class Jason M. Smith and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael F. Tharp of 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, First Army Division West, were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed during training.
While far from a complete list, I have covered the stories on each of these fine soldiers during my time at the Killeen Daily Herald. On this Memorial Day, I salute them. While I never met any of them in person, I feel I know them through the memories of those who knew them best.
‘Til Fiddlers Green.