HOOD, Texas (4/14/2011) -- In early August, information about their
deaths saturated the news, but Aug. 13 and 14 was about how they
Five soldiers -- Sgt. Alex Bennett, Chief Warrant
Officer 4 David Carter, Spc. Spencer Duncan, Staff Sgt. Patrick
Hamburger, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols -- were killed
Aug. 6 when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in Wardak
Twenty-five sailors and airmen and
eight Afghans also perished in the crash, the largest single loss of
American troops since Operation Enduring Freedom began.
loss was mourned and their lives were honored during a ceremony Aug.
13 at Comanche Chapel on Fort Hood during the unit's drill weekend
and at another ceremony Aug. 14 in Olathe, Kan.
In Olathe on
Sunday, a ceremony reminiscent of the one at Fort Hood was held in
the unit's hangar and was attended by friends and family members of
the fallen troops as well as Patriot Guard Riders, members of a
local Boy Scout troop, the Gardner, Kan., Fire Department and
members of an area Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
fallen were deployed to Afghanistan with the Spartans of Company B,
7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, which is headquartered at
They were sons, fathers and husbands who loved
serving their country.
At both ceremonies, Lt. Col. James
Fitzgerald, battalion commander, 7-158th Avn. Regt., eulogized his
fallen Spartans, paralleling their bravery and warrior skills with
those of the warriors in ancient Sparta.
"They loved their
families. They loved what they were doing and who they were doing it
with," Fitzgerald said. "They loved their freedom."
Reserve Component warrior citizens, Bennett, Carter, Duncan,
Hamburger, and Nichols chose civilian careers and activities while
also walking the path of warriors, the battalion commander said.
They overcame any fear to save others in need.
not lose their lives, they gave them,” Fitzgerald said. “They loved
their families and their brothers-in-arms when they were in need
enough to put aside their own lives and to serve others.”
five Spartans were different in several aspects, but had at least
one commonality. All had a deep love for serving their country.
Carter was an experienced aviator with more than 4,500 flight
hours and more than 700 of those hours flown in combat throughout
his 28-year military career.
He was a gentle soul and a man
of integrity, Maj. Steve Gambichler said.
A native Kansan,
Carter was senior instructor pilot with the Colorado National Guard.
Echoing the words of a childhood friend of Carter, Gambichler
said, "He was the kind of man the rest of us will aspire to be."
In addition to the deployment to Afghanistan, Carter previously
served in Iraq and in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
He leaves his wife, Laura, and two children, Kyle and Kaitlen.
Nichols was a skilled pilot, an exceptional officer and a great
friend, Lt. Col. Richard Sherman said. Sherman served with Nichols
since the pilot was a warrant officer 1.
"Bryan left us as
he lived - serving his country and flying Chinook helicopters,"
He came to the unit straight out of flight
school and eager to fly. Good-natured and well liked by his peers
and crew members, Nichols never just thought about himself.
"He is part of one of my most painful and most cherished memories in
my Army career," Sherman said.
His wife Mary and 10-year-old
son Braydon survive Nichols. Braydon's desire for the public to know
about his father has touched the nation.
in 1998, shortly after graduating from his Lincoln, Neb., high
school. He volunteered to join the Spartans in Afghanistan.
Known as “Patty” to his friends, Hamburger was planning to marry his
fiancee Candy Reagan following the deployment.
posthumously promoted to staff sergeant, according to the Department
He leaves behind his daughter, Payton Elizabeth.
Forward and honest, sometimes painfully so, people always knew
where they stood with Bennett, Capt. Matthew Williams said. The
23-year-old flight engineer could find humor in any situation.
Known for his love of working on cars and a proclivity for
pranks, Bennett changed over the last year, Williams said.
"He had grown up," the captain said. "Alex attacked life with
To his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class
Kirk Kuykendall, Bennett was like a son.
“He loved to eat and
play board games,” Kuykendall said.
The two first met in 2009
at Fort Sill, Okla. Kuykendall was new to the unit and Bennett was
one of the first to introduce himself. Later, Bennett followed
Kuykendall to become a Spartan.
At the Kansas ceremony,
Kuykendall also recalled Bennett as a prankster whose hijinks often
got him in some trouble, but kept his friends entertained.
“He paid the price for his unit's high morale,” Kuykendall said.
The platoon sergeant was medically evacuated from Afghanistan
about six weeks ago when he was injured in a Chinook crash on June
25. Nichols was one of the pilots on the aircraft, but he was not
Kuykendall kept tabs on Bennett and heard that the
young man had matured during the deployment and was thriving.
“He knew how important the mission was and that it had to
continue, even at a time of loss,” Kuykendall said. “He inspired a
group of very young Soldiers to stay in the fight when things were
Bennett lived the company motto of “With it
or on it,” and many tributes to his memory bear the expression.
“Alex died a patriot and a hero,” Kuykendall said.
survived by his mother, Kim Robinson, and his father, Lt. Col. Doug
A proud "good ole boy," Duncan enlisted shortly
after graduating high school in 2008.
He loved playing
guitar and going "muddin," Staff Sgt. Craig Wehr said during the
memorial at Fort Hood.
Duncan's friends said he was never
meant to go to school.
“He was made for the Army,” Chief
Warrant Officer 5 Michael Walsh said at the Kansas ceremony. “He was
made to be a mechanic.”
From taking apart and then
reassembling the TV remote as a child to working on vehicles and
Chinooks, Duncan “had a natural ability to take anything apart and
put it back together,” Walsh said.
More than anything else,
Duncan loved serving his country.
“He wanted to fight for the
rights of others so they wouldn't have to fight for themselves,”
Duncan passed along his long for service to his
younger brother Tanner who is completing basic training and will
soon join the Spartans as well, continuing his brother's legacy.
His parents and younger brothers, Calder and Tanner survive
During both traditional military memorial ceremonies,
the 1st Cavalry Division honor guard fired a 21-gun salute, and a
lone bugler from the division played taps, which brought tears to
the eyes of many in attendance. Members of the Navy SEALs also had a
presence at the ceremonies.
Carter, Nichols, Hamburger,
Bennett and Duncan left a heritage of service to the nation and
selfless brotherhood, putting others before one's self, Fitzgerald
said. He urged others to continue what they started.
pay them no greater honor than to cherish that sacrifice and legacy
they died for, that of freedom,” Fitzgerald said. “We must make it
clear we are committed to its preservation, whatever the cost.”
By Fort Hood Public Affairs Office
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