Military leaders, veterans, staff and friends gathered for three dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremonies held by the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), in honor of three fallen heroes in Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, NY on May 24, 2016.
Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, from Selah, Washington, and 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, from Fairfax, Virginia, were assigned to Task Force Knighthawk when they were killed on April 23, 2013 from wounds sustained from enemy indirect fire in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan.
1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks, from Velda Village, Missouri, was assigned to 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, prior to his deployment to Afghanistan. He died on September 28, 2011 in Lundstuhl, Germany, of injuries sustained on September 27 from enemy indirect fire in Logar, Afghanistan.
May 24, 2016 - Family members of 1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks unveil the plaque designed to honor him after he made the ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Linda Gerron)
Of the three facilities dedicated, two serve as indoor fitness centers and the third is an outdoor running track.
The Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard Functional Fitness Facility currently provides Soldiers with over a 100 pieces of modern equipment that emphasizes on cross-fitness training; whereas the 1st Lt R.J. Hess Fitness Center, currently closed for new equipment renovation, will consist of full-service gym equipment with treadmills, leg machines, and locker rooms.
The mile-long 1st Sgt. Billy J. Siercks Airfield Running Track is the only one of its kind in the airfield and is heavily utilized by the Soldiers of the brigade during the morning peak hours of physical training.
At each ceremony the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Commander, Colonel Michael C. McCurry, spoke of the hard work and sacrifice Blanchard, Hess, and Siercks made to the country and found it particularly fitting that the facilities would be dedicated in their names.
"I think it appropriate, that these facilities, on a bluff overlooking the Black River, where wildlife abounds, where Soldiers can listen to music while making themselves stronger, and where the sound of helicopters is a constant accompaniment perfectly memorializes them," said McCurry. "Falcon Warriors will constantly be reminded to never quit or give up through the example of these great American Warriors."
Rebecca Blanchard, Capt. Blanchard's wife, expressed her gratitude for being a part of her husband's dedication.
"I am extremely grateful to the 10th CAB for providing me this amazing opportunity," she said. "When I served in the military, I remember reading [Soldiers] plaques on the wall, and they made me feel like I needed to be a better person. So, to see his plaque go on a wall is really awesome."
May 24, 2016 - Family members of Capt. Aaron Blanchard unveil the plaque designed in his honor after he made the ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Linda Gerron)
After the completion of all three ceremonies, all families and friends were invited to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade Yellow Ribbon Room for refreshments and closing remarks from McCurry and Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum acting senior commander.
"How does one sum the life of a man, a fallen Soldier, a father, and a husband," said McCurry. "No words of mine could ever adequately express what these men meant to so many, or what their sacrifice and their families sacrifice means to our nation. Climb to glory. Fly to Glory. Never Forget."
By U.S. Army Capt. Linda Gerron
Provided through DVIDS
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