JBLM 1st Special Forces honors fallen soldiers

By Gail Wood on May 16, 2014

In a somber tribute to the soldiers who have died fighting with the 1st Special Forces Group, Col. Max Carpenter thanked the fallen for their ultimate sacrifice for freedom during an early Memorial Day service at 1st SFG Headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, May 15.

He reminded everyone that freedom isn't free.

"Let us all remember that our nation is the greatest nation because we have warriors who know that freedom has a cost," Carpenter said, reading from a speech from Col. Bob McDowell. "And that the cost is worth paying if it means that our families and our nation remain free."

After Carpenter's speech, Master Sgt. Tad Duvitt then read the 22 names of the Green Berets who have died fighting in the war against terrorism since 9/11. A bell was rung as each soldier's name was read. 

"Rather than mourn, we celebrate," Carpenter said.

There were two families of the soldiers killed in action present at the 45-minute ceremony at the black granite Memorial Wall for the fallen 1st Special Forces Group.

Carpenter, the deputy commander of the 1st Special Forces, reminded everyone that a country's freedom never comes with guarantees.

"Ron Reagan once said that freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction," Carpenter said. "We did not pass it along to our children in our bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on to them for them to do the same."

To the families present, Carpenter, reading from McDowell's speech, said "we'll remain forever in your debt for your sacrifice." McDowell, the commander of the 1st Special Forces, was on assignment in the Philippines and couldn't attend the memorial service.

There are 177 names on the Memorial Wall, which include soldiers from 1st Special Forces who died in Vietnam. Twenty-two of them died in the past decade in the war against the Taliban.

"On this wall to my left are the names of the sons, husbands and brothers," Carpenter read. "They provide an eternal example of what is good and right in our nation. Men who have done more than give their life for their nation. They have given their life so that others may remain free."

That standard, Carpenter said, is what the soldiers from the 1st Special Forces in formation at the ceremony should carry on without them and fulfill the mission of freedom. Carpenter praised the fallen soldiers who all raised their hands and volunteered to do what others wouldn't.

"They stood tall and placed themselves into positions to protect those who couldn't protect themselves," Carpenter said. "As this war comes to an end for the majority of our forces, we know the sacrifices made by those who wear the green and red beret of the 1st Special Forces will go on." 

After the reading of the fallen soldiers' names, two men dressed in kilts playing bagpipes played several songs, including "Amazing Grace." As the bagpipes were played, gun fire at a distant firing range on base could be heard, a subtle reminder that there will continue to be other challenges facing the freedoms of this country and the need for other sacrifices.

"In addition to never forgetting these men, we owe these men that we will remain vigilant against our nation's adversaries," Carpenter said. "We owe these men to live life to the fullest, to cherish our God, our families, our teammates with all that we have in our finite time on this earth."