Kentucky Guardsmen vow to never forget, honor fallen heroes with ceremony

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Story and photos by Spc. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Sgt. 1st Class Joseph M. Keffer, a supply technician at the Kentucky National Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop, plays “Taps” during a We Will Not Forget ceremony June 4. Keefer honored seven Soldiers including Staff Sgt. Brock A. Beery during the day-long tour that crisscrossed the Commonwealth. (Photo by Spc. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky National Guard)

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (June 10, 2011) — In a small, quiet, fenced-off patch of grass in the middle of a farm field, “Taps” is played.

Around the grave of a fallen hero, Family, friends and military personnel gather to pay their respects to a fallen husband, brother, father and comrade.

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Kentucky National Guard Brig. Gen. John W. Heltzel, deputy commander, Joint Force Headquarters salutes the grave of Spc. Michael R. Hayes June 4 in Bowling Green, Ky. Hayes was killed in Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. Heltzel was part of a group of National Guardsmen who travelled throughout the Commonwealth commemorating fallen Kentucky Guardsmen in memorial services June 4-5. (Photo by Spc. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky National Guard)

“There haven’t been two [ceremonies] alike,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph M. Keffer.  “Each one has been unique in its’ own way.”

On June 4, Keffer, along with seven other Kentucky National Guardsmen, visited the memorial sites of seven fallen Kentucky Citizen-Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice since Sept. 11.

On any other day, Keffer would be submersed in supply transactions at the Kentucky National Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop. But on this day, he rendered honors to our nation’s finest as the bugler who played ‘Taps’ at a total of seven sites.

And as “Taps” sounded around each memorial site, 2nd Lt. Dale D. McKee, a chaplain candidate from Dallas, Texas, rendered a salute.

After spending four years as an enlisted Soldier, McKee completed the chaplain school in October, and while he hasn’t had much time to perform the duties of a chaplain, he said he couldn’t resist the opportunity to provide spiritual counsel to the Guardsmen’s Families.

“The state chaplain called me up and I said ‘yes’,” said McKee about providing chaplains assistance during the memorial service.

“They’re interesting,” McKee said about the ceremonies.  “Each one is different from the last, especially with the family dynamics and how they react to the ceremony.”

Since 2006, the leadership from the Kentucky National Guard visits 20 grave and memorial sites of Kentucky National Guardsmen who died in support of the Global War on Terror. Named the We Will Not Forget ceremony, a wreath is placed at each site while the Kentucky Guardsmen remember the sacrifice of our fallen heroes.

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Members of the 149th Infantry Brigade stand at attention during a ceremony honoring Spc. Michael R. Hayes. Hayes, killed in Iraq in 2005, was honored during the annual We Will Not Forget Ceremony, an event in which the Kentucky National Guard recognizes the sacrifice of its fallen Soldiers. (Photo by Spc. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard)

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