82nd Airborne Division honors fallen paratroopers at Fort Bragg ceremony
By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: May 22, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — As the 82nd Airborne Division's chorus sang about a young man's love for the military, a middle-aged man sitting in an area set aside for families of paratroopers killed in combat leaned over and kissed his wife on her hair.
Nearby, a younger lady with her arm around a small boy pulled him close and whispered in his ear.
The 82nd Airborne Division paused during its All American Week festivities Wednesday to remember paratroopers killed in combat. The division honored more than 16,000 of its soldiers during a Memorial Ceremony at the War Memorial Museum on Fort Bragg.
Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commander of the 82nd, said he appreciated the families of those fallen soldiers attending the ceremony. He said those who died would tell those left behind to live in a way worthy of their sacrifice.
"Grieve, live, honor, but never forget," Mingus said.
The relatives, who are known as Gold Star Families, laid yellow roses on the ground at memorials honoring the soldiers after the ceremony.
Some ran their fingers gently over names etched in stone markers.
A woman stood on her tip-toes to reach one name.
A man kissed his hand and placed it on a name.
Two women hugged as one softly wept.
The ceremony included the laying of wreaths in honor of paratroopers who died during the division's military campaigns. Those attending paused for a moment of silence in their memory.
Robert Dvorchak, an author and historian, spoke during the ceremony about the 82nd's soldiers who fought in Vietnam.
"It was a tough mission, a tough time, a tough place," he said.
More than 200 paratroopers died in Vietnam, ranging in age from 18 to 43 and in rank from private to lieutenant colonel, Dvorchak said. Those who were killed included infantry, artillery, cavalry, combat engineers, cooks and clerks, he said.
"That's what the 82nd Airborne Division is," he said.
Aniceto Rivera, an 82nd veteran who served with the division during Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic, talked about how paratroopers were sent there in 1965 to stop rebels from taking over the country.
"We were very successful, but it was not easy," he said.
Before the ceremony, Jerry Brown, another veteran who served in the Dominican Republic, talked about his time in the 82nd.
"I'm still proud of it to this day," he said.
Brown, who lives in Houston, said he knew one of the paratroopers killed in the Dominican Republic. He said his fellow soldiers would be on his mind when the wreath was laid at the memorial for the soldiers who died there.
"I will think of them and the time down there, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.
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