Becky Welch, widow of 1st Lt. Robert F. Welch, takes a moment to remember at the Memorial Dedication and Fallen Hero Ceremony, March 9, 2012, at Fort Knox, Ky. The day's events culminated in the dedication of a memorial for all the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Soldiers who have died since 2001 in overseas contingency operations. First Lt. Welch died last year from wounds suffered in a rocket attack at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan.
Photo by Army Staff Sgt. John Zumer
FORT KNOX, Ky. (March 13, 2012) -- Family, friends and Soldiers
coming together normally implies good food, good times and plenty of
fun. However, in the case of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st
Infantry Division, and its honored guests, Friday's Duke Memorial
and Dedication Ceremony was a much more solemn occasion.
day's events were planned by the Duke Association, a private
organization entrusted with preserving the legacy of the 3rd BCT,
1st Inf. Div. "Dukes." The group wanted to remember the ultimate
sacrifices paid by Duke Soldiers since 2001 in overseas contingency
operations. Brigade leaders and veterans felt the best way to honor
the memory and service of their fallen was to build a unique
memorial, separate from other larger, all-encompassing memorials.
It was that desire which served as the impetus for launching
the new organization.
With Friday's dedication of the Duke Memorial, event
organizers brought to Waybur Theater the families of those
Duke Brigade Soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
Guests were introduced and welcomed, and Duke Association
President Maj. Steve Smith took the opportunity to thank
those in attendance. He also commented on the many people
and organizations in the greater Fort Knox community that
helped make the memorial a reality, once word got out about
"I quickly found out they had made the
Duke Brigade their own," said Smith.
The solemnity of
the occasion was brought home to the audience with a Fallen
Hero Flag Presentation, where an honor guard meticulously
folded a United States flag. A narrator explained during the
folding that the thirteen separate folds in the process each
represent not the 13 original colonies as one might suspect,
but special virtues or influences like equality, womanhood
After a memorial video, highlighting
Fallen Duke Soldiers and the brigade's history since 9/11,
Col. Chris Toner, commander of the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div.,
discussed the unforgettable legacy of those Soldiers who had
died, and how they and their families will be remembered in
"We will never forget the terrible
loss you have suffered," said Toner.
Waybur Theater events concluded, attendees moved to the
formal dedication of the Duke Memorial, near the common area
shared by the 3/1 BCT battalions. The monument unveiled to
the public is modeled after the 1st Cavalry Division's
memorial at Fort Hood, Texas. Featured are separate markers
for each of the brigade's six battalions, with individual
names of Soldiers who have fallen in Iraq or Afghanistan
since 2001 listed on each marker.
currently holds 118 names.
A special memorial prayer
and the somber notes of "Taps" set the stage for many months
of work on the part of volunteers reaching fruition. In
unison, each marker was uncovered, with Family members then
inspecting each, looking for the names of loved ones. Many
took the opportunity to highlight with tracing paper and
charcoal the imprint of the names set into the black granite
A reception for Gold Star Families at the
Fort Knox Leaders Club brought the day's events to a close.
It was a somber day of remembrance, certainly, as
those present relived some very painful moments, recognizing
brave Duke Brigade Soldiers no longer with families, friends
and their comrades-in-arms. Toner said if there was any
consolation, however, it was in knowing the fallen won't
ever be forgotten by those who gaze upon the Duke Memorial,
or remember in their most precious memories what their lives
meant to the nation and loved ones left behind.
family members present thanked those who had arranged the
tributes paid to their fallen soldiers, even on such a
bittersweet day that couldn't help but remind them of what
they had lost.
"You guys just did an amazing job,
all of it," said Darren Baker, stepfather of Spc. Mikayla
Bragg, who died in December just before the brigade was set
to return from Afghanistan.
For those who helped and
planned the memorial and day's events, however, it was a
small installment on a debt that can never be repaid.
"Their sacrifice was great, but not in vain," said
Toner. "They risked their lives, ultimately, for their
brothers and sisters."
By Army Staff Sgt. John Zumer
3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs
Army News Service
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