Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Polar Bears remember the fallen and missing

By Sgt. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO

Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team gathered on Fort Drum Monday May 12 to remember the two Soldiers still missing from their ranks after a terrorist attack one year ago near Qarghuli Village, Iraq.
Members of the 31st Infantry Regiment Association attended the ceremony to present the battalion with a statuette – the boots, upright rifle and helmet that symbolize a fallen Soldier – in honor of the missing and fallen.
Pfc. Byron Fouty and Sgt. Alex Jimenez, both of Company D, 4-31, were part of a patrol on Route Malibu near the village. The Humvees were attacked at about 4:45 a.m. Five other 4-31 Soldiers were killed in or just after the attack, along with an Iraqi soldier that was with the patrol.
Pfc. Vincent DeFrank, a gunner with Co. B, 4-31, accepted the statuette from regiment veteran Jack Considine, who served with the 31st in Korea.
“I was really honored to accept such an award for the battalion,” said DeFrank. “I’m only a private, and they chose me to go up there. It was really meaningful for me, and I think it was even more meaningful for the Soldiers that were (in Iraq) longer than I was. These are our brothers that are missing, and we still hope they get home safely.”
Considine, who left the regiment after the war ended, spent his nine-month tour in Korea as a specialist, but is a staunch member of the association.
“When we saw what had happened, we said, ‘They deserve this for what they did,’ said Considine. “We always care about the Soldiers of the regiment, and I really enjoy being up here with these guys.”
Ron Corson commanded Co. A, 6th Bn., 31st Inf. Regt. in Vietnam, and retired as a colonel. He now serves as the commander of the regiment’s 1200-plus membership. The organization hopes that being involved with the Soldiers who currently serve in the regiment will help them build strong bonds. The association has members who were in the Bataan death march as well as those who saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and now the War on Terror.
“It took Vietnam veterans about 30 years to start attending reunions,” said Corson, who hopes to avoid that situation. “Every year the numbers grow. Soldiers in combat have a relationship; there’s a bond with the unit that they didn’t share with anyone else.”
An official award was given a few months ago, but the ceremony was postponed until the anniversary of the attack.
“The membership came up with the idea …and we decided this was a fitting time to do it, a good time to present it publicly,” Corson said.
“It’s important that the unit pause and acknowledge this day,” said Sonny Mitchell, former command sergeant major of the battalion. “It impacted a lot of lives, and the heart and soul of this battalion. It’s one of those things we have to remember.”
There was no mention of the anniversary in the news.
“The lives of two Soldiers who stepped up to serve the country should be acknowledged,” said Mitchell. “But the great Americans who serve give others the ability to go through their day without thinking about the cruelty and ugliness of war.”
The statuette, while a small token, is a symbol of the continuity of the 31st Infantry.
“We’re passing on the memories and the history,” Mitchell said. “That’s the lifeblood of the unit.”

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