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Soldiers, veterans and Family members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade came together with members of the Fort Benning community June 14 to honor 13 fallen Sky Soldiers.
The Soldiers' names were unveiled on the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial at the National Infantry Museum, during a ceremony for the Gold Star Family members of the fallen.
Col. Andrew Rohling, a former commander of the brigade, said the event was important for all Sky Soldiers.
"This is really an opportunity for the rest of the Sky Soldier community to recognize, as they have for all the other names on this memorial, the 13 guys who are special to each of us for what they did during this deployment," Rohling said.
"It means a lot to be able to see their names on that wall today."
Creighton Osborn, whose son Sgt. Kyle Osborn was killed in Muger, Afghanistan, in September 2012, said attending the ceremony was the latest part of his Family's grieving process.
"For us, it's part of a journey," Osborn said. "Coming down here to see the awesome nature of the monument and the ceremony and to see (Kyle) and the rest of the Soldiers be honored in this way forever - for our kids and grandkids and generations to come - just takes us back. We look at the other Families and realize we're not doing this alone. It's been a great day."
Rohling said as important as it is to recognize the fallen Soldiers, it is equally important to continue to support the Gold Star Family members they left behind.
"None of those 13 Soldiers were drafted," he said. "Each one of them chose to be here, and they chose to do that as a Family. As people look at these names, they need to remember that there is a Family connected to that name - a Gold Star Family that continues the tradition of sacrifice."
Osborn said that support has been a big help since his son's passing.
"It's like having a pair of hands over you," he said. "We have a tremendous outreach in Indiana, and we stay in contact with all the people who were important to him during his time in the Army. We've had calls from Rangers and 173rd Soldiers from around the world.
"But, the biggest thing is that most of them stay in contact with our kids and help them as we try to go through this. It means a lot to have this support and to get that feeling like we did today that for as long as we're here and we need something, all we have to do is reach out."
Deb Yashinski, a Gold Star mother who lost her son Sgt. Michael Yashinski in December 2003, works closely with the other Gold Star Families of the 173rd, and said the unveiling served as a landmark for many Families.
"This is the end of a deployment and the beginning of a new life for some of these Families who lost loved ones," she said. "The plans and the road they had planned to take now have a big rock on them. They have to build a new path."
Osborn said seeing his son's name unveiled on the monument brought a sense of finality and gave him an opportunity to reflect.
"This was his destiny," Osborn said. "God put him on this earth to be a Soldier in the Army. That's a fact. We can look back now and see that. ... Though the end wasn't the greatest, we're very proud of him and everyone else on that memorial for what they did in protecting us during these times."
The 13 Soldiers are the latest to join the thousands of names on the memorial. And while those names may share space with thousands of others, Rohling said each Soldier on the memorial will be remembered forever.
"I made three deployments with the brigade, and I can unfortunately put my hands on too many names up there starting with some in 2003 up through Sgt. Enrique Mondragon when he was killed Dec. 24, 2012, and there's a story behind each one of them," Rohling said. "There's a story about how they were killed and who they were as a person."
The Fallen Will Never Be Forgotten
The names of these 13 fallen Soldiers were unveiled on the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial June 14:
1st Lt. Stephen Prasnicki
Spc. Justin Horsley
Pfc. Brenden Salazar
Pfc. Adam Ross
Pfc. Theodore Glende
Pfc. Andrew Keller
Spc. James Justice
Pfc. Shane Cantu
Sgt. Kyle Osborn
Sgt. Jonathan Gollintz
Staff Sgt. Orion Sparks
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Metcalfe
Sgt. Enrique Mondragon