By Dewey Terrill
Those Americans who lost their lives on 9/11 and the many 1st Infantry Division Soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice fighting terrorism were remembered at Fort Riley on Wednesday.
The names of Big Red One Soldiers have died during the war on terror are listed on the Global War on Terrorism Monument at the Cavalry Parade Field. One of those Soldiers was remembered by the Chief of Staff of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, Colonel Kevin Lambert. Capt. James Neal was a Soldier who had asked to be in his unit at one time, the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment.
Lambert first met Neal when he asked to join the unit prior to a deployment to Afghanistan, and that was accomplished. Lambert said about three months into their deployment and following the evacuation of a company commander Neal unexpectedly took command of Delta Company 2-16 Infantry. “There was no one the Soldiers respected or admired more than James.”
On Nov. 9, 2012 Neal accompanied one of his platoons during a patrol in a dangerous area of Afghanistan. “As the commander James could have chosen to patrol with another platoon or remain at the company command post. However he was cognizant of the dangers associated with the mission and the impact that his presence would have.”
The platoon was ambushed as they approached a small farmhouse and were pinned down by fire. In an effort to free the platoon from their position Neal and his radio operator began to advance toward the enemy strong point returning fire as they advanced. ” James was felled by an enemy bullet that struck near his heart. He was 37-years old, a loving father and husband. To this day I cannot tell you why or how James knew he was supposed to be in our unit. But what I can tell you is that we were all blessed that we knew James, and that we knew why he knew he was supposed to be with us.”
Lambert said each name on the memorial has its’ own name or heroic story. The men and women on the memorial were all volunteer, served for their fellow Americans, and to fulfill their “common internal call to duty.”
Lambert said the genesis of the freedom we enjoy is rooted in their sacrifice.
Firefighter and police first responders were recognized during the ceremony that also included the laying of a wreath, a three-round volley and Taps.