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
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,
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.
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
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
"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
"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.
By U.S. Army Capt. Linda Gerron
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