Kentucky unit commemorates solemn anniversary in Afghanistan

Story by Spc. John Rader, 149th VCC Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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Staff Sgt. Matthew May of the Kentucky National Guard’s 149th Vertical Construction Compnay reads a speech prepared in honor of Sgt. Daniel Wallace to a group of troops, including Army Reserve Soldiers and Guargdsmen from Kentucky, Minnesota and South Carolina at Camp Spann in Northern Afghanistan. The 149th coordinated a memorial ceremony at each of location, Kentucky Soldiers were stationed to honor Wallace on the anniversary of his death in 2008.(Photo courtesy of Sgt. Michael Castorenoa)

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — Members of the 149th Vertical Construction Company honored the memory of one of their own during a remembrance ceremony held at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  The Soldiers paid tribute to Sgt. Daniel Wallace on the anniversary of his death in 2008.

During the 2008 deployment, the unit was part of the 201st Engineer Battalion. Charlie Company and Bravo Company of the 201st Engineers make up the now 149th VCC. They were serving as combat engineers tasked with the mission of identifying and defusing improvised explosive devices or IED’s on the roadways in Afghanistan. On Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 during a routine route clearance mission in West Paktika Province, the Guardsmen were halted for a vehicle issue and the unit convoy came under small arms fire by enemy forces. Wallace was mortally wounded during the attack.

Five years after that fateful day, the Kentucky Guardsmen find themselves back on familiar soil in Afghanistan. Although a different mission is on the books for the unit; remembering the patrols of the previous deployment is not difficult as the unit is in the same region of the country and the scenery is still very familiar.

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Soldiers of the 149th Vertical Construction Company salute during a memorial ceremony for Sgt. Daniel Wallace in Gamberi, Afghanistan, Oct. 31, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Michael Martin)

“When the 149th is stateside, we hold a service in the Veterans Memorial North Cemetery on Memorial Day for Daniel,” said Capt. Adam Evans, commander of the 149th. “It is a humbling privilege to perform this observance so close to where the event happened on the anniversary. I want Daniel’s family to understand that this ceremony means so much to us. We will honor his sacrifice by remembering his service to our nation. I’ve coordinated with every member of my staff to make this happen at Forward Operating Bases across Afghanistan at the same time so that our moment of silence is companywide.”

Kentucky Guardsmen are stationed all over the Regional Command East and North Territory of Afghanistan so the ceremony called for superb coordination of schedules between all the members the 149th.

Silence fell over the unit as each of the formations were called to attention across Afghanistan promptly at 8:00 am on Thursday Oct. 31, 2013. The American Flag was marched to the mast as Soldiers attached the flag to the halyards and hoisted it in the air. After saluting the colors as the flag was raised, a speech was given in honor of the fallen Soldier, including one of Wallace’s favorite Bible quotes taken from Psalms 9. Also included were personal memories of Wallace and the stories of why the unit stands today. At the same time as the ceremonies, an American flag was flown over the Regional Command East Territory of Afghanistan in an apache helicopter that is out on mission. The flown flag will later be presented to the Wallace family when the unit returns to Kentucky, along with a certificate that reads in a script “flown in the face of the enemy on October 31st 2013”.

“This is the most honorable way we have to remember Sergeant Wallace and his family from where we are,” said Sgt. 1st Class William True. “The Wallace family is still very involved with the unit. They always attend our Christmas dinners and other ceremonies that we hold.”

“It’s a pleasure to see them often and so involved with us. The Soldiers that remember Sergeant Wallace still tell stories of him and they are always smiling and in good spirit when doing so. Daniel had a way to make you laugh that was very unique to his personality. I find myself thinking of him often,” True added.

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Sgt. 1st Class William True stands in front of the group of the 149th Vertical Construction Co. in Bagram Air Field as he recites Sgt. Daniel Wallace’s favorite bible scripture Psalms 91 just prior to a moment of silence, Oct. 31, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Rader)

The unit also flew the Kentucky State Flag in place of the South Carolina State Flag of the 122nd Engineer Battalion outside of their tactical operation center for the entire day of Oct. 31 to remember Daniel.

The 149th had the full support of the battalion they fall under during the day of observance. 1st Lt. David Lewis, 122nd Battalion Chaplin was on hand to pay respects and offer his services. Several members of the 333rd Horizontal Engineer Company, from the Army Reserve in Pennsylvania are present at the ceremony held by the main body of the unit at Bagram Airfield. Other members stationed at satellite locations also drew in a larger crowd than just the 149th  Soldiers.

“I met Wallace years ago when I was going through Advanced Individual Training for Combat Engineers in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri,” said 1st Lt. Charles Langston Jr., 122nd Engineer Battalion, South Carolina National Guard. “I recall how Wallace completed that training with honors and graduated at the top of our class. He was already a great Soldier and was in line to be a great leader.”

The simultaneous ceremonies included troops from the 859th Vertical Construction Company, Mississippi National Guard, 850th Horizontal Engineer Company, Minnesota National Guard, 333rd Horizontal Engineer Company, and the 122nd Engineer Battalion.

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Sgt. Daniel Wallace

“As the leadership and the command of this company changes; I want all the Soldiers of the 149th to remember Sergeant Wallace and ensure his memory lives on by carrying the torch forward,” said Evans. “As we welcome our predecessors into this company, It’s vital that we continue to remind them of the sacrifices this unit has made in the pursuit of freedom. We will never leave a fallen comrade and we will never forget Daniel Wallace.”

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