‘Big Red One’ honors fallen
Story by: Mollie Miller
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The light breeze that swirled around Victory Park June 13 carried with it memories of 43 1st Infantry Division Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past year.
Memories of a daddy who loved to play video games with his little girl and of a young man who loved to surf were released as red felt covers were lifted to reveal names etched into the park's newest memorial stones.
"This is a special place. This is our hallowed ground," said Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, senior commander, Fort Riley. "Here, we honor those who have fallen and reflect on the strength of those who have gone before us."
The Victory Park Ceremony, conducted annually in conjunction with the division's Victory Week, honors Soldiers who have died while assigned or attached to the 1st Inf. Div. during a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The 43 Soldiers honored June 13 served as advisers, security partners, trainers, members of the "Devil," "Dagger," "Duke" and "Dauntless" brigades, and as American Soldiers working to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Soldiers will always be remembered in the 1st Inf. Div. We will always celebrate them and their Families," MacWillie said. "They are not forgotten because they will always belong to the 'Big Red One.'"
Samantha Cook said she is grateful for the Big Red One and the Army Family that has embraced her since her husband, Spc. Michael Cook, died in Iraq June 6, 2011. Although more than a year has passed since her husband was killed in a rocket attack, Samantha said she still feels his presence and knows he was with her as his stone was revealed in Victory Park.
"Mike was here today," she said. "They all were here today."
Ramon Mora said he, too, felt his son's presence June 13 just as he does every time he sees a young man in uniform. Mora's son, Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr., was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, May 22, 2011.
"Every time I come to Fort Riley, I feel like this is where he is at," the father said of his namesake.
Stephanie Cintron, widow of Spc. Marcos Cintron, said Victory Park will always be a special place for her – a place where she and her Family will go to celebrate the great husband and loving father with whom she shared her life.
"We will absolutely come back to the park to honor him," she said. "We will come back as much as we have to."