Germany unit remembers medic killed in Afghanistan
HOHENFELS, Germany — Images of a medic learning to give aid to fallen comrades, a soldier in full battle rattle on his first trip downrange, brought tears to many inside the on-post theater Tuesday.
The attendees — mostly members of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment and their families — were there to say goodbye to Cpl. Conor Gerard Masterson, 21, of Woodbury, Minn., who was killed April 8 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
The person who knew Masterson best was Spc. Zach Harding. The pair, both medics, spent a lot of time together after they were assigned to 1-4, a unit that role-plays as an enemy force for soldiers training at Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
“We went to the same places. We liked a lot of the same things. We were living in the barracks and spent a lot of time together listening to music, playing video games or making jokes about stupid people,” said Harding, 24, of Bel Air, Md.
To give its soldiers experience and contribute to ongoing war efforts, the unit regularly sends companies downrange.
Harding deployed to Afghanistan last year, expecting never to see Masterson again since his friend was due to replace him and would be on his way there with Company B by the time he got home.
But when Harding went home on midtour emergency leave, he stopped off in Germany and spent at least four hours with his friend. “We talked a lot in those four hours. We both knew it was going to be the last time we would see each other,” he said.
Masterson talked about his wife, Lorena, and plans to study medicine at college. At the end of the four hours he walked slowly out of his room, locked his door and walked away, Harding said.
Another 1-4 soldier who knew Masterson was his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class William Neill, 37, of Alliance, Ohio.
Neill remembered a young medic, eager to learn his craft, whom everyone knew as “Dougy.” He told a story about Masterson’s efforts to correctly insert and tape an intravenous tube under the stern gaze of his mentor, Sgt. Richard Kern.
Kern tested Masterson’s tape job by picking up the IV bag and throwing it as the wide-eyed young soldier watched in horror, Neill said. “But Masterson’s tape job held. He had bested his mentor and now he was becoming the medic he wanted to be,” he said.
Masterson’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with V device, Army Commendation Medal, NATO Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and the Overseas Ribbon.