|Texas Army National Guardsmen honor the memory of Sgt. Tomas Garces, at a ceremony held in Weslaco, Texas, Sept. 6, 2014. Garces was killed in action,Sept. 6, 2004 and was the first Texas Army National Guard Soldier to die in combat since World War II. (Photo courtesy of Texas Military Forces)
Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle
(AUSTIN, Texas) September 11, 2014 - In the military, the possibility of losing a friend is a real possibility. Going into harm’s way to defend the American people and our way of life is what we have all volunteered to do. But it is when we are in harm’s way and the battle buddy or wingman next to us steps up and offers up their life for us, for their family and for the people of our great nation, that we witness what it means to be a hero.
Texas National Guard armories, located in Weslaco and Laredo each hosted a ceremony this week to honor a few of our Texas brothers in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice while supporting operations overseas.
Soldiers, family and friends gathered to honor the 10-year anniversary of Sgt. Tomas Garces’ death in a tribute ceremony at the SGT Tomas Garces Armory in Weslaco, Sept. 6, 2014.
Garces was the first Texas Army National Guard Soldier to die in combat since WWII.
“Sgt. Garces demonstrated leadership and encouragement that brought the best out of those around him,” said Maj. Harold Bender, 36th Sustainment Brigade Chaplain, Texas Army National Guard. “His sacrifice will not be forgotten and his legacy of service will live on.”
In Laredo, Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company participated in the fourth annual “Fallen Soldier Ceremony” Sept. 9, 2014.
The ceremony was created to honor the life of Sgt. Jaime Gonzalez, a 436th Soldier who was killed in Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
This year’s ceremony also honored the lives of four other 436th Soldiers who have passed away – Sgt. Carlos Aguilar, Spc. Sarah Lopez, Sgt. Jesus Rodriguez and Sgt. Jose Mata.
“I’m happy that people keep his memory; just thankful that we can make this happen every year,” said Gonzalez’s daughter, Samantha.
Soldiers and family members released 1,000 balloons in their honor during the ceremony. Cards were attached to many of the balloons with photos of the Soldiers that read, “Never Forgotten.”
Col. Richard Noriega, Assistant Division Commander-Support, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, presented two wooden signs to the Gonzalez family. The signs read “Gonzalez Annex” and “Gonzalez House,” and originally hung at Camp Eggers, Afghanistan where Gonzalez was stationed when he died. The unit renamed the Garrison command headquarters and provost marshal headquarters in his memory. After the family requested the signs, Lt. Col. Les Davis, garrison commander, Camp Mabry, Texas Army National Guard, spent two years working with various leaders in Afghanistan to have the signs shipped to Texas.
Family members at both ceremonies said how deeply moved they were by the tributes paid to their loved ones.
For the service members, it was a reminder of the cost of duty, but also an opportunity to pay homage to our fallen.
In the military, it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since we lost our friends, battle buddies and wingmen, because their lives and their sacrifices we will always remember.
And we take the opportunity to pause once in a while, and honor their lives.
Our heroes - they are gone, but never forgotten.
|Soldiers and family members of the 436th Chemical Company, Texas Army National Guard, released 1,000 balloons in honor of five of their fallen soldiers during a ceremony held at the National Guard armory in Laredo, Texas, Sept. 9, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Torres/ Released)