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A job well done and Welcome Home Troops.
By Kelly Moore
Leesville Daily Leader
Mon Jan 26, 2009, 08:31 AM CST
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Fort Polk, La. -
Hundreds gathered at Fort Polk’s Honor Field Friday afternoon to show their appreciation and support to the more than 3,000 members of the 4th Brigade 10th Mountain Division who have spent the past 14 months deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The ceremony began as the soldiers, in formation, made their way from the back of Honor Field to the front. As troop movement began, cheers from friends and family members of the returned soldiers resonated through the air.
“I am proud that you have decided to share in their victory with us,” Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, Commander, JRTC and Fort Polk told the audience of the brigade.
“We rest easy tonight and America rests easy tonight due to your service,” he continued, speaking to the soldiers.
Though cheers prevailed throughout the field, a hush resonated just as loudly in the moment of silence to honor the nine soldiers of the brigade who gave their lives while in combat.
Gold Star Families, those families of the fallen soldiers, also attended the day’s ceremony, and with tears in their eyes, looked across the field at their extended Army family, those with whom their soldier had lived, fought and died for the cause of freedom, not only for Americans, but for the families in Iraq who have lived in fear and terror for the past years.
The fallen soldiers of the 4th Brigade 10th Mountain Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom are:
Pvt. Daren A. Smith
Sgt. Austin D. Pratt
Sgt. Timothy M. Smith
Sgt. Joseph A. Richard III
Sgt. Mark A. Stone
Sgt. Marcus C. Mathes
Spc. Jeffrey F. Nichols
Sgt. 1st Class David R. Hurst
Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Taylor
As the units of the 4/10 prepared to uncase their unit colors, Gold Star Family members and wounded soldiers of the brigade entered the field.
The Gold Star Family members were asked to install the Operation Iraqi Freedom Campaign Streamer to the flag of the unit in which their fallen soldier had served. The streamer, placed by mothers fathers, wives, brothers, sisters and children, serves as visible proof that the brigade’s mission is complete.
A wounded warrior, pushed onto the field in his wheelchair by a fellow soldier, attached the Campaign Streamer for the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry “Warriors” with a steady hand and unwavering eyes.
The final streamer was attached to the flag of the 4th Brigade 10th Mountain Division by Sgt Nathan Hunt who was injured by an Explosively Formed Penetrator on May 10, 2008 in Baghdad.
Now a double amputee, Hunt made the journey back to Fort Polk to see the soldiers with whom he once lived and fought.
“I came back to see my soldiers,” said Hunt, who also wore on his t-shirt his Bronze Star with Valor device earned in Iraq. “I wanted to show them that I support them.”
Hunt is currently assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where he undergoes daily therapy.
Hunt’s injuries prevent his wearing a uniform.
The soldier was joined by his wife and children at the ceremony.
His younger son impatient, wiggled and played with an action figure throughout much of the ceremony, but when his dad made the journey to install the Campaign Streamer, the boy’s eyes widened and focused on his father.
“At first when I came home, it was hard on my wife and my kids, to see me like this,” Hunt said. “But soon they realized that I was just more determined.”
After the ceremony, many family members of the 4/10 made their way to thank Hunt for his service.
Thank you so much; you are an inspiration and a true American hero,” said one woman, with tears in her eyes.
The day’s activities were dedicated to the heroes of the 4/10, both those who stood in formation on the field and those who were lost in combat.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
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