FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A bell tolled 43 times Wednesday as the Big Red One paid tribute to soldiers recently killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The names of each of the 43 soldiers who lost their lives over the past year were etched into individual stones surrounding the Fallen Soldier Memorial at Victory Park at the Big Red One’s Headquarters. The new stones were unveiled during a ceremony Wednesday morning.
The memorial now pays tribute to close to 500 1st Infantry Division soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice during the War on Terror.
The soldiers honored June 13th served as advisors, security partners, trainers and members of the Devil, Dagger, Duke and Dauntless brigades.
"It’s a celebration of the honor and sacrifice that these soldiers gave to their nation. It’s also a celebration of the families. And it’s important that we understand as soldiers that are still serving today that if we should happen to sacrifice and if we should not come home, that our families would be taken care of and that our comrades and this beautiful division will forever remember who we are," said Fort Riley Senior Commander Brigadier General Donald MacWillie.
One of the soldiers remembered during the ceremony was19-year-old Roman Mora Jr., a gunner who died in an IED attack near Baghdad.
Private First Class Mora was killed in action after enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device near Baghdad. He assigned to 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Mora, 19, of Ontario, California, was an infantryman who joined the army in January 2010. It was his first deployment to Iraq. Mora was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge.
His family traveled from California to attend the ceremony.
"It’s been a year since we lost our son. It’s been difficult. We’ve been going through some hard times, trying to deal on a day to day basis with the loss of Junior. Every time I come to Fort Riley, I feel that this is where he’s at. Every time I see another soldier wearing the Army uniform, I feel my son’s presence there also," said his father, Ramon Mora Sr.
Samantha Cook, wife of Specialist Michael Cook, was also in attendance with her two children. Her husband died in Iraq on June 6, 2011.
"I knew he was here. I could feel him. All 43 of them were here. I could feel that. It was a beautiful ceremony," she told 13 News.
Cook was killed when insurgents launched an indirect fire attack on his base. Five other soldiers also lost their lives in the attack.
The Soldiers were assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, and were deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
Cook, 27, of Middletown, Ohio, was a field artillery tactical data systems operator who joined the Army in October 2009.
"He was my everything. I still haven't fully accepted it," Mrs. Cook said.
"These soldiers are gone but not forgotten," MacWillie said during the ceremony.
The ceremony at Victory Park to honor fallen soldiers is conducted annually in conjunction with the division’s Victory Week celebration which started June 11th.
This year marks the 95th birthday for the Big Red One and 237th for the U.S. Army.
The annual week-long celebration honors the division’s history of service and the various roles Big Red One Soldiers have played in our nation’s history since World War I.