Memorial foundation to honor 13 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJune 13, 2014 

Gold Star families of 13 soldiers killed in Afghanistan during 2012 will be honored today by the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial Foundation at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.

The names of the soldiers will be added to a monument with more than 1,440 names of casualties since it was formed, said retired Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, former commander of the unit after it was reactivated in Vicenza, Italy, in 2000.

"This day of honor is to unveil the 13 names of the killed-in-action soldiers that we lost and to honor those families," said Yarbrough, who serves on the 173rd Airborne Brigade National Memorial Foundation.

Each year, when the brigade returns, Yarbrough said a ceremony is held to inscribe the names of the lost on the monument.

The brigade was first activated in 1915 as the 173rd Infantry Brigade. It saw service in World War I and World War II, but is known for its actions during the Vietnam War. In 1963, the brigade was re-established and became the first ground combat force in Vietnam in 1965. The brigade engaged in some of the most intense fighting in Vietnam.

Based in Italy, the brigade was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 when almost 1,000 "Sky Soldiers" parachuted into Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Afghanistan, the brigade has been on four deployments.

The loved ones of those who have died or were killed while serving in the military are called Gold Star families.

"Eighteen members of those families are here with us to share with us and take a rubbing home of their loved ones' name," the retired general said.

In May, President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Kyle J. White, who is the second soldier from the 173rd Airborne Brigade to be recognized with the United States' highest military honor. For his actions to save other soldiers while under fire in Afghanistan, he now joins Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta as honorees from the legendary brigade. Giunta completed basic and Airborne training at Fort Benning.

Yarbrough said about 60 people are expected at the largest memorial at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. The names of the fallen soldiers are from all across the country.

"It is a proud group of folks," Yarbrough said.

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