TACOMA, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Rayvon Battle and Sgt. George Fuller once made a pact: If either soldier ever got hurt, the other would take care of the fallen man’s family.
Both believed they’d never have to follow through on the deal. They were wrong.
Battle, 25, deployed to Afghanistan with the 38th Engineer Company of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division last month and did not make it home to his wife and daughter. He died in an accident at his forward base Nov. 13.
Fuller remains there, doing his part to honor his friend’s memory.
“Don’t worry Battle, 38th Engineers are going to hold it down,” he wrote from his base. “More importantly, I’m going to praise your name and make sure everyone remembers you.”
Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Wednesday shared Fuller’s tribute at a memorial to Battle, the first soldier from the Stryker brigade to die on this deployment and the first from the unit to die overseas since April 2010.
The 4th Brigade just left the base last month for a nine-month assignment in southern Afghanistan, replacing soldiers from another local Stryker brigade.
Battle, a two-time Iraq veteran, was taking an inventory of ammunition and explosives with three of his fellow noncommissioned officers when a fire broke out.
The soldiers tried to evacuate the site, but an explosion caught Battle before he could get to safety, a battalion commander wrote from Afghanistan.
“Tragically, Staff Sgt. Battle was taken from this place,” Lt. Col. Thomas Feltey wrote. “I am unable to tell you today why this happened, however I do believe in my heart there is a reason – a reason beyond our comprehension, a reason that one day we can but hope to understand.”
Feltey described Battle as “a go-to noncommissioned officer” with “vast experience” and leadership abilities. A captain echoed those remarks, praising Battle for his “tremendous” positive influence over other soldiers.
Battle grew up in Rocky Mount, N.C., and enlisted in the Army in 2005.
He was assigned to Lewis-McChord in November of that year, joining the 1st Special Forces Group’s support battalion as a gunner. He deployed to Iraq with that unit in May 2008 through February 2009.
He soon returned to Iraq with the 4th Brigade in February 2010, this time as a combat engineer, driving thousands of miles searching for bombs.
Fuller met Battle during that deployment. He remembered seeing Battle in Iraq wearing a white Casio G-Shock watch and white Oakley sunglasses.
“I was like, look at Soulja Boy!” Fuller wrote, referring to the rap singer.
They became close friends, sharing memories about their similar childhoods and constantly texting each other when they got home.
Battle “was the first person I told I was getting married, and he was my witness,” Fuller said.
Battle held up a phone at the ceremony so Fuller’s family could listen in.
“He busted up and made everyone else laugh” during the service, Fuller wrote.
They later made that pact to take care of each other’s girls if the worst happened.
Fuller’s still thinking about his best friend.
“It’s going to be hard to get through this tragedy,” he wrote. “I don’t know how long it’ll take because not a second goes by that I don’t hear his voice or see him in my mind.”