The ceremony itself lasted no more than seven minutes, but it was a fitting tribute at the turn-around point for motorcycle drivers participating in 95th Civil Affairs Brigade’s (Airborne) first brigade-wide motorcycle mentorship ride, in early November.
Fifty eight bikers from the headquarters staff and four battalions, some carrying passengers, began the first leg of their journey from the brigade’s motor pool.
The quarter-mile motorcade traveled about 39 miles from Fort Bragg, to the Outback ATV Park near Wagram, N.C., where Bill Greene and his wife Becky, who represented Hope Mill’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10630 were waiting. They had brought a poppy wreath on a wire stand and an electronic bugle for the noon ceremony.
ATV Park owners, Mike and Jennifer Evock, had readied his stock car, famous on the oval dirt track circuits of the Atlantic seaboard for the hundreds of names stenciled in blue, on all sides and top of the white, aluminum body of the GRT chassis. Memorialized on the 715-horsepower dirt track race car are the names of more than 270 Army special operations Soldiers killed in combat since 9/11.
Evock, a retired Special Forces warrant officer and race car driver, decided early on, after building his first race car eight years ago, that he would dedicate the car to his fallen comrades from the Army’s Special Operations Forces.
On the car’s hood, between the raised air scoop and the red letters that identify four, military war campaigns that began over eleven years ago, were the freshly painted names of Staff Sgt. Kashif Memon, Capt. Daniel Utley and Sgt. 1st Class Marciano Myrthil, three civil affairs Soldiers killed in combat earlier this year.
Shortly before noon, the riders formed a large semi-circle, facing the single wreath of red poppies set before the race car.
“We are reminded that we, who are left behind, cherish their spirit, honor their commitments, send them our love and never forget the service that they gave,” said Greene in opening the ceremony with a prayer.
“Today, our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifice and even as we lose troops, more Americans step forward and say ‘I’m ready to serve,’ following the footsteps of generations of fine Americans,” said Greene.
Lt. Col. Brent Bartos, 95th CA Bde’s deputy commanding officer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Duncan stepped forward to place the wreath in front of the flagpole and salute as Greene sounded taps.
Duncan then turned to his Soldiers.
“Walk proud, keep your head up,” Duncan said. “…You’re the founding part of this country. You’re the backbone of this country. We lose people every day out there, in training, combat, (and) accidents. Whatever it is, every Soldier we lose, no matter what the method, we lose a big part of who we are and how we protect this nation.
“For our Soldiers who have fallen in combat, they paid the ultimate sacrifice. To me, personally, when I hear the words ‘he died in combat,’ I say, ‘Nobody dies in combat; they were killed in combat.’ Never forget that. Our brothers were killed. They didn’t die. Carry their memory forward. Don’t forget. Everybody understand that?”
“Hooah,” affirmed the Soldiers in lowered voices.
“Like the sergeant major said, carry that memory forward and never forget those Families they left behind. We need to take care of them too,” added Bartos.
Later, after members from Family readiness groups and the Evock Family warmed the crowd with bowls of hot chili, some of the riders continued their conversations around the two campfires used to warm visitors at the 700-acre ATV park.
“To me, it’s all about Family,” said Green. “It was a small ceremony, but it’s all about Family. You can do 20, 30, 40 years in the military, but it’s all about Family. You got to stick with each other. That’s what it is.”
Helping to link up the Soldiers, the VFW, and the ATV park that day was Lt. Col. Dominic Kusumoto, chief of the brigade’s Civil Affairs Planning Team and biker of many years.
“I’ve done mentorship rides before, but they’ve always been at the company or the battalion level,” Kusumoto said. “We’ve never done one at the brigade level and since the rider safety program is command directed, we figured we’d do one for the brigade and get everyone together as one, cohesive unit, build our esprit de corps and actually look at other people’s riding skills.”
Kusomoto said the some of the biggest safety concerns was paying close attention to other vehicles, proper equipment and gear, and dressing properly for the weather.
“The weather was perfect for riding,” said Kusumoto.