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A drawing of the proposed memorial to honor the more than two dozen members of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and its main fighting force — the 173rd Airborne Brigade — lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A drawing of the proposed memorial to honor the more than two dozen members of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and its main fighting force — the 173rd Airborne Brigade — lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Kent Harris / S&S)
A drawing of the proposed memorial to honor the more than two dozen members of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and its main fighting force — the 173rd Airborne Brigade — lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A drawing of the proposed memorial to honor the more than two dozen members of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and its main fighting force — the 173rd Airborne Brigade — lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Sgt. Maj. Richmar Weik, the command sergeant major for the rear detachmment of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne), is leading the effort to build the monument.
Sgt. Maj. Richmar Weik, the command sergeant major for the rear detachmment of the Southern European Task Force (Airborne), is leading the effort to build the monument. (Kent Harris / S&S)

VICENZA, Italy — The Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and its main fighting force — the 173rd Airborne Brigade — have lost more than two dozen soldiers in two missions in Southwest Asia.

Now an association made up of many of their comrades is trying to make sure their sacrifices will be remembered.

“People tend to forget,” said Sgt. Maj. Richard Weik, the command sergeant major for the SETAF rear detachment. “This will be there forever.”

The “this” he’s referring to is a monument to the fallen soldiers — as well the various units that contributed to the two missions — that the Association of the United States Army hopes to see erected on Caserma Ederle.

Using “forever” in an Army that’s transforming and planning to close dozens of bases in Germany in the next few years might be a bit optimistic. But, as Weik points out, SETAF is building up while much of U.S. Army Europe is drawing down. And it doesn’t appear that U.S. soldiers are leaving Vicenza anytime soon.

So Weik said it’s important to remember those who will never return to Vicenza. Nine Sky Soldiers from the 173rd died during a yearlong stint in Iraq. So far, 18 soldiers from SETAF — 17 from the 173rd — have died during a stint in Afghanistan that should end this spring.

The monument, as presently envisioned, will feature a large St. Mark’s Lion standing atop a piece of granite or marble. The lion, which represents gospel writer Mark, is a symbol of the Veneto region and adorns the SETAF patch. Whatever material is chosen, it will come from Italy and the monument would likely be made by Italian artists.

Weik, president of the Mediterranean chapter of AUSA, said the monument would cost about 22,000 euros.

“We only started soliciting a couple of months ago and we’ve already gotten about $7,000,” he said. Much of that came from donations from the Vicenza Military Spouses and Civilians Club and Global Credit Union. He said the organization has also received donations from seven Italian businesses or individuals and he hoped other Europeans or Americans stationed elsewhere in Europe would also contribute.

Weik said the monument will list the names of the soldiers from Vicenza killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will also feature patches from all the units that have served with SETAF units in both places.

“We’d like to be inclusive of all the elements from the combined joint task force [in Afghanistan] as well as those who served with us in Iraq, such as 1-63 from 1st Infantry Division,” he said.

Weik said he hopes to present Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, the SETAF commander, with a check for the project when he returns from Afghanistan.

Anyone interested in donating to the memorial fund can write to AUSA-Vicenza, Unit 31401, Box 106, APO AE 09630, or call DSN 634-8960 for more information.

Migrated
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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