Bulldogs Brigade Memorial dedicated at Fort Bliss
El Paso Times
FORT BLISS, Texas — An overflow crowd of more than 1,000 soldiers, family members and dignitaries and the muffled sounds of sobbing heard during much of the ceremony spoke volumes.
The Bulldog Brigade Memorial was officially dedicated Friday at East Fort Bliss to honor 52 soldiers associated with the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, who died in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11. The unit is nicknamed the Bulldog Brigade.
Eighteen of those soldiers were from Fort Bliss.
The monument, standing proud in front of the brigade's headquarters at 21200 Bayonet, was made possible by the all-volunteer, nonprofit Bulldog Brigade Memorial Association.
"We're very proud of it," said Carla Whitesell-Dahl, an Army wife who is president of the nonprofit group that pushed for the monument and drummed up donations for it.
"We're hoping it can be a place of healing and a peaceful place," Whitesell-Dahl said. "We couldn't have done this without community support. Obviously, this is very meaningful as you can see by the turnout."
Whitesell-Dahl's group is not affiliated with the Army. It raised more than $60,000 during the past year to make the project possible; no tax dollars were used.
The memorial was unveiled in front of a large crowd — most of it standing room only — that stretched out into the area surrounding the brigade's headquarters.
It remembers 22 soldiers who died during the unit's recent deployment to Afghanistan. Twelve were members of the Bulldog Brigade based at Fort Bliss, and 10 were from other units but were attached to the Bulldogs during deployment. Among these attached troops were six Military Police officers from Fort Bliss' 978th MP Company who were killed in action on July 8.
Also included in the memorial were 30 Bulldogs who were killed in Iraq when the unit was stationed in Fort Riley, Kan. The unit has been at Fort Bliss since 2009.
More important than never forgetting these troops, it's important to remember how they lived their lives, said Col. Mark H. Landes, the brigade's commander.
"We will remember their lives and what they stood for — their selflessness, their courage, the ideas they stood for," Landes said. "We want to pattern our lives after them."
The memorial was constructed in front of the brigade headquarters to serve as a source of inspiration for soldiers as they are training and preparing for their next assignment, Landes said.
Staff Sgt. Steven Rossler served with four of the soldiers who are named on the monument.
"Honestly, it's amazing that they were able to honor these soldiers like this," Rossler said. "We can't bring them back, but it's huge to honor and pay tribute to them like this."
Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard said the memorial was personal to him on three levels.
He was the deputy commanding general at Fort Riley when the 3rd Brigade deployed to Iraq, was the commander at Fort Bliss when the brigade went to Afghanistan and also served with the unit when he was a captain during the Gulf War.
"You remember their faces, their eyes, their families and of course their service," he said.
Both Pittard and Landes praised the efforts of the Bulldog Brigade Memorial Association and how it was able to make the memorial a reality.
Landes said the association was "the best nonprofit I've ever been associated with."
Michelle Salem, first vice president of the Bulldog Brigade Memorial Association, said the group had a "shared vision to honor our fallen soldiers."
"We worked to construct a memorial that was worthy of the sacrifice that our fallen gave," she said.