As the names of 13 fallen "Sky Soldiers" were unveiled on a monument at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center Saturday, tears streamed down their family members' faces.
The soldiers died between June 27 and Dec. 24, 2012, while serving in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team known as "Sky Soldiers." The soldiers' names were added to more than 1,440 casualties on the huge granite monument and their families were honored during an 11 a.m. ceremony.
For Creighton Osborn, the event stirred a multitude of emotions for his son, Staff Sgt. Kyle B. Osborn, who was killed in action Sept. 13, 2012, when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
Osborn thought not only of his son, but also of the other families.
"It's kind of a final to start with," said Osborn of Stockwell, Ind. "He is on the wall with the rest of them, but you can't help but look at the other families that lost loved ones. It wasn't just Kyle."
The event was sponsored by the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial Foundation to remember the 13 American soldiers who gave their lives in Afghanistan, said retired Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, a former commander of the unit.
"Unfortunately, try as we might, we can't bring them back and we won't have them here but what we will have is a memory and their legacy," he said. "When we have added their names to the magnificent granite here along with the other 1,400 names, they will be here forever to tell their story of service to the country and to the brigade. The most important thing we try to do here is honor the families coping with this loss."
Osborn said it's gratifying to know that his son's name and all those other men will be there forever and people can come and see the sacrifices they all gave.
"It's such a great tribute for us to be around," he said.
Col. Andrew Rohling was commander of the brigade in 2012 and was deployed with soldiers on four deployments. He said it's important to remember the fallen soldiers.
"They need to be remembered," he said.
Rohling, who now works at the Pentagon, said one who served with the soldiers can touch the name on the monument and remember everything on how the soldier died.
The brigade was first activated in 1915 as the 173rd Infantry Brigade. It was re-established in 1963 and became the first ground combat force in Vietnam in 1965.
Deb Yashinski, a Gold Star mother after losing her son, Michael, in Iraq in 2003, knows what's ahead for the loved ones coping with a loss. Her son was with the "Sky Soldiers" when they parachuted into northern Iraq in March 2003. He was killed Dec. 24, 2003, during fighting in Tikrit.
"Basically, you have to take one day at a time, one step at a time," said Yashinski, a grief counselor from Camp Lejeune, N.C. "The most important thing is never apologize for grieving and the biggest thing you remember is grief is not a team sport. It's an individual."
Over the last 10 years since her son died, Yashinski said she has learned that men grieve differently than women and children grieve differently than guys who served with soldiers.
"It's just a process, and unfortunately, nobody put a time limit on it," she said. "I also deal with Vietnam. I have some who are still grieving that loss."
Yashinski noted that the monument at Fort Benning is the only one in the United States for the "Sky Soldiers." The unit is based in Vicenza, Italy.
"There is no place to go and touch," she said. "This is why this memorial is so important. This is the place we can come and say this is my son's friends."