Fort Bragg soldiers remember fallen comrades
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Soldiers with the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion paid homage Wednesday to four troops killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hundreds turned out the day before Thanksgiving to participate in a memorial cleanup that spread across three sites in Fayetteville, on Fort Bragg and in western Harnett County.
The sites, two roads and a park, were previously dedicated in honor of Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Priestner, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Miles Henderson, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brent Cole and Spc. Adam Fulkerson.
Priestner and Henderson were killed when their AH-64D Longbow Apache crashed near Balad, Iraq, in November 2006.
Cole died near Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, in May 2009. He also was an Apache pilot.
Fulkerson died in Tikrit, Iraq, in October 2006 after a land mine exploded near his vehicle during combat operations.
Stretches of road near the Buffalo Lakes community in Harnett County are dedicated to Priestner and Henderson.
By midday Wednesday, more than 60 bright orange garbage bags mingled with pine straw over a two-mile stretch of the roadway.
Capt. Bobby Sickler said more than 50 soldiers, with A Company and B Company, volunteered to clean the area.
Priestner and Henderson were part of A Company, but Sickler, the company commander, said none of his soldiers were with the unit in 2006.
Because of that, he said he was impressed that the entire company decided to participate.
"That's the part of it that made me the most proud," Sickler said. "They were celebrated as Red Wolves."
The cleanup on Buffalo Lakes Road was preceded by an informal memorial ceremony. Similar ceremonies were held on Andrews Road, the stretch of road dedicated to Cole and for Fulkerson at Wilson Park on Butner Road on Fort Bragg.
The dedication of Andrews Road for Cole took place last September, just before the battalion deployed to Afghanistan. The route was used by Cole on his daily travels to Fort Bragg's Simmons Army Airfield. His son, Carson, still takes the road to school.
Brent Cole's wife, Vanessa Cole, said her family was grateful to be part of an organization that makes so much effort to remember those who made sacrifices.
"Our family really appreciates that they would take time away from their families this holiday season for this," she said.
The 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion is part of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which completed its year-long deployment to eastern Afghanistan in late September.
Officials with the battalion have hosted similar events in the past but said they plan to visit the dedicated areas more often.
Capt. Robert Ridley, commander of C Company, oversaw the cleanup along Andrews Road.
Most of the soldiers who participated did not know Cole, he said, but are familiar with him.
"We've signed up for a very tough job," Ridley said. "This was a reminder of what it is we put into the job and what we signed up for."
He called Cole a giant and said he was a constant presence with the company in Afghanistan, where a memorial was held for him on the latest deployment.