The 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade will soon be gone, a casualty of Army transformation.
But before the brigade completes its inactivation in October 2013 and its soldiers depart Grafenwöhr and Schweinfurt for other assignments, troops from the unit are making sure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten.
Nineteen soldiers from the 172nd, which was activated in 2008 from elements of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, lost their lives while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Tuesday, a memorial was dedicated in their honor during a ceremony at the spiritual heart of the Grafenwöhr military community: the parade field near the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command headquarters.
“We gather today to not only remember our fallen, but to dedicate this memorial that will stand long after the 172nd has [inactivated],” said Col. Edward Bohnemann, brigade commander, in comments provided by the unit.
The memorial stone, which includes the names of all 19 soldiers, will serve as a lasting reminder of the legacy the brigade leaves in Germany, Bohnemann said.
Soldiers from the unit donated more than $12,000 to build the memorial. The money was quickly raised by individual soldiers over the course of two months, according to Staff Sgt. Charles Crail, a brigade spokesman.
Planning for the monument began soon after the brigade was notified that it would be inactivated in 2013, according to Crail. “It was a collective idea born from many of the longtime members of the 172nd,” Crail said in an email.
While units at big U.S. installations such as Fort Hood in Texas have long-standing memorials for their fallen soldiers, the 172nd as a separate brigade lacks that connection to a larger unit to help maintain its legacy in Germany, Crail said. “This monument fills that gap,” Crail said.
In 2008, “Blackhawk” soldiers deployed to southern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nine soldiers were killed during the mission, which was focused on helping to bolster the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
Those killed in Iraq and listed on the memorial are:
Spc. Christopher P. Sweet, Sgt. Jose R. Escobedo, Spc. Israel Candelaria-Mejias, Sgt. Raul Moncada, Spc. Michael E. Yates Jr., Staff Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, Cpl. David A. Schaefer Jr., Spc. William Z. VanOsdol, Sgt. Christopher M. Cooper.
After redeploying to Germany in December 2009, the brigade departed for Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. Based in the mountainous eastern Paktika province, the brigade was responsible for defending more than 200 miles of border while expanding the combat capabilities of the Afghan forces.
Those killed in Afghanistan and listed on the memorial are:
Sgt. Matthew A. Harmon, Cpl. Joseph A. Vandreumel, Staff Sgt. Daniel A. Quintana, Chief Petty Officer Raymond J. Border, Staff Sgt. Jorge M. Oliveira, Spc. Keith D. Benson, Staff Sgt. Jerry D. Reed II, Spc. Daquane D. Rivers, Staff Sgt. William R. Wilson III and Sgt. Manuel J. Vasquez.