FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 19, 2019) — The 10th Mountain Division (LI) conducted the Annual Remembrance Ceremony at Memorial Park on June 19 to honor the service and sacrifices of division Soldiers who died during contingency operations around the world.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, former 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted adviser, addressed the attendees after laying a memorial wreath with Brig. Gen. Brett Funck, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commander of operations, in front of the Military Mountaineers Monument.
“Last night, my wife Elizabeth and I walked along these grounds, admiring the sculptures, holding our own silent roll calls of the too many plaques listing our fallen,” Merritt said.
Earlier in the day they had met Gold Star family members, some who they’ve met in the past, and Merritt said that they never cease to inspire him. For that, he asked all Gold Star families to remain seated and asked the remaining audience members to join him in rendering a salute to them.
“To our Gold Star families, no words I am about to say can ever replace your sons and daughters,” he said. “But they will express the love of the family you have gained forever – your 10th Mountain Division family – as these Soldiers will never be forgotten.”
Merritt shared a couple of stories about one of his battle buddies who is memorialized among the fallen at Fort Drum, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, former 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander.
“His memory, like that of all our fallen comrades, will live forever – if not through our stories, then through the actions of our everyday lives,” he said.
Merritt concluded by asking commanders and senior enlisted advisers to honor the fallen by ensuring the readiness of their living comrades.
“Build scenarios that test and challenge the character of our troops that matched the ones who we remember here today,” he said. “Present our Soldiers with ethical dilemmas they will face on the battlefield. Do that, and you will build a strong and ready force. Do that, and we will defeat our foes. Do that, and we will remain a free and protected nation. Do that, and you will keep alive the memory of these fallen comrades.”
The names of those fallen Soldiers are etched in bronze plaques in Memorial Park, and the official party unveiled one more to remember Pfc. Joshua Mikeasky, a 2nd Brigade Combat Team Soldier who died Dec. 13, 2018, in a noncombat incident while deployed in Afghanistan.
Funck said that the ceremony is poignant and moving because it gathers the 10th Mountain Division family with Gold Star families to recognize and honor fallen sons and daughters, colleagues and friends.
“We sit here, and we take pause and reflect,” he said. “It allows us to remember, it allows us to stay connected, but it also allows these events – especially as leaders – to be very clear and coherent in our minds in terms of the events or actions that occurred that day so we never forget that Soldier.”
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