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Army Special Operations Command honors 13 fallen soldiers at Fort Bragg memorial

Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and USASOC Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Eckard salute as a wreath is placed before the U.S. Army Special Operations Fallen Warrior Memorial Wall during a memorial ceremony, May 30, 2019.

GARRETT RALSTON/U.S. ARMY

By MICHAEL FUTCH | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: May 31, 2019

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Beth Ross is learning to live without her son, Army Capt. Andrew "Drew" Patrick Ross.

Ross, a 29-year-old detachment commander stationed at Fort Bragg from Lexington, Virginia, was killed Nov. 27 by a roadside bomb in Andar, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.

It was his second overseas tour.

Ross was one of 13 special operations soldiers killed in the line of duty while supporting combat operations over the last year. On Thursday, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command paid tribute to the soldiers in a memorial ceremony on Fort Bragg attended by more than 100 Gold Star families and friends.

The hurt, his mother said afterward, never goes away.

"Other Gold Star mothers I've talked to say, 'You have to learn to live without them here,' " she said, her eyes misting while sitting in the shade of a red-and-black tent pitched on the command's Memorial Plaza.

"So many good memories get you through the tough days," she said.

Her son's father, Stephen Ross, also attended the ceremony. The elder Ross served in the Air Force for four years and coached soccer at the Virginia Military Institute.

During his remarks, Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, acknowledged the sacrifices made by the Gold Star families.

"This is both our most honorable time of the year, as it is paradoxically, our most difficult,'' Beaudette said. "That painful paradox allows us to understand where and why pain of loss comes back so that we never forget who our fallen heroes were. What they lived for, and why they so willingly put others before them."

"We remember these heroes as unique individuals who volunteered to enter into harm's way for their countries, for their families and for us," Beaudette said. "This is how we remember. This time of remembrance allows all of us to replenish our gratitude for these heroic brothers and sisters, and to reaffirm our promise to carry their legacy forward."

Vonda and Kevin Rodgers traveled from Bloomington, Indiana, for the memorial service. Their 10-year-old son, Ashton, also was on hand.

Two years ago, the couple lost their son and Ashton lost his brother, Sgt. Joshua Patrick Rodgers, when he died as a result of small arms fire in Afghanistan.

"I think it's important to get together with the USASOC family at least once a year," Vonda Rodgers said following the ceremony. "This is our family now."

As part of the service, the names of the latest 13 soldiers killed in action were added to the USASOC Fallen Warrior Memorial Wall. A bell sounded, echoing through the plaza periphery, as their names were read off. The fallen soldiers included:

  • Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Zachary Beal, 32, who died Jan. 22 of wounds received from small arms fire in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Andrew Celiz, 32, who died July 12 of wounds received from small arms fire in Paktiya province, Afghanistan.
  • Staff Sgt. Alexander Warren Conrad, 26, who died June 8 of wounds received from enemy fire in Somalia, Africa.
  • Master Sgt. Jonathan Jay Dunbar, 36, who died March 30, 2018, of wounds received while conducting combat operations in Manbij, Syria.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael Emond, 39, who died Nov. 27 of wounds received from a roadside bomb attack in Ghazni province.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Robert Farmer, 37, who died Jan. 16 of wounds received from a roadside bomb attack in Manbij.
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor James Galvin, 34, who died Aug. 20 of wounds received in a helicopter crash in Ninevah province, Iraq.
  • Sgt. Leandro Antonio Sleeper Jasso, 25, who died Nov. 24 of wounds received in combat in Nimroz province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. Cameron Alexander Meddock, 26, who died Jan. 17 of wounds received while conducting combat operations in Badghis province, Afghanistan.
  • Staff Sgt. Emil Rivera-Lopez, 31, who died Aug. 25, 2017, during a training mission off the southern coast of Yemen.
  • Capt. Andrew Ross, 29, who died Nov. 27 of wounds received as a result of a roadside bomb attack in Ghazni province.
  • Maj. Brent Russell Taylor, 39, who died Nov. 3 of wounds received from small arms fire in Kabul province, Afghanistan.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, who died Aug. 12 of wounds received from a roadside bomb attack in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

"They represent the best of all of us," Beaudette said.

Earlier, command Chaplain Keith Croom said during the invocation, "Lord, we're very aware of the pain of losing someone. However, if you would be so kind, God, we ask that you feel our hearts with joy and love so that we can celebrate their lives."

By the time Beth Ross's son was in middle school, he knew he wanted to join the military. He had grown up in a military environment, as Lexington is home to the Virginia Military Institute.

In 2011, Andrew Ross graduated from West Point.

His sister, Sarah, would marry a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune on the North Carolina coast. Andrew's brother-in-law had attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

"We always had an inter-family military rivalry between the two schools. A good-natured, inter-family military rivalry," Beth Ross was quick to add.

Her son served more than seven years in the Army before losing his life doing what he loved.

"He absolutely loved his job," she said. "He believed in what he was doing."

mfutch@fayobserver.com

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