AL ASAD, Iraq -- Marines and Soldiers stationed at Al Asad, Iraq, gathered at Camp Gettysburg for a memorial service remembering seven soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The ceremony included a personal reading of each Soldier’s military biography. For the Army National Guard Battalion headquartered in Scranton, Pa., the ceremony was especially emotional, as some of the men knew the fallen outside of their military profession. One Soldier lost his neighbor. Another lost his childhood friend.
Talking to his men, Lt. Col. Michael A. Konzman, the battalion’s commanding officer, challenged his men to remember the fallen and the mission for which they died.
“This gives them the time in a formal setting to come to grips with what has happened,” he said. “When a Soldier has done that, he can put his mind back on the mission.”
The men fighting in Iraq carry on the fine tradition of the 109th Infantry Regiment which has answered the call to arms for more than a century in fighting U.S. wars.
The unit fought in the famous Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Before the current deployment to Iraq, the battalion’s last activation came in August 2002, when it performed peacekeeping duties in Bosnia.
The battalion operates in the northern Al Anbar province, providing security for Al Asad and the surrounding areas. Despite the losses, Konzman said he expected his men to continue the fight.
“We came here and we all knew the risk,” he said. “We’re doing fine. We’re driving on. Those men we lost would want it no other way.”
Staff Sgt. Ryan S. Ostrom, of Liberty, Pa., was killed in action near Khalidiyah, Iraq, Aug. 9. He was a squad leader with B Co.
Specialist William L. Evans, of Hallstead, Pa., was killed in action near Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 19. He joined B Co. immediately after it mobilized to deploy.
Staff Sgt. George A. Pugliese, of Carbondale, Pa., was killed in action near Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 28. He had been with the battalion for more than a decade when it mobilized to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Arnold, of Montrose, Pa., was killed in action near Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 28. He had served in the Army reserves since 1994 before transferring to the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and switching his military occupational specialty, becoming an infantryman in 2004.
Sergeant Eric W. Slebodnik, of Greenfield Township, Pa., was killed in action near Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 28. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard just months after Sept. 11, 2001, and was recently promoted to sergeant.
Specialist Lee A. Wiegand, of Hallstead, Pa., was killed in action near Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 28. He enlisted before he graduated from high school. Wiegand’s duties included driving the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Private First Class Oliver J. Brown, of Athens, Pa., was killed in action near Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 28. He was a rifleman with B Co.