Bennet: When Asked, These Soldiers Answered The Call of Duty and Performed Their Missions With Distinction
Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, spoke on the Senate floor tonight to pay tribute to the nine American soldiers who died in Afghanistan. The soldiers were based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs and members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Below is the full text of Bennet's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to recognize the tragic loss of nine soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, who were killed this past weekend in Afghanistan.
Last Saturday, eight soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team at Fort Carson were killed in a firefight by insurgents in a remote area of Afghanistan. From what we know, as many as 200 insurgents attacked two of our mountain outposts, and U.S. and Afghan soldiers responded together. The fighting lasted most of the day. When it was over, Fort Carson had seen our most costly day since Vietnam.
These eight young men made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. All Coloradans and all Americans honor their bravery and their service. We owe them and their families a great debt.
Mr. President, I would like to read the names of these courageous soldiers into the Record, and recognize that a ninth tragedy has also apparently now occurred, and say a few words about each:
Sergeant Vernon Martin was 25 years old. He leaves behind a wife and three children. After joining the Army five years ago, Vernon had already served bravely in Iraq. His wife has told people that he hoped to work with kids in the future. She also said he was the best thing that ever happened to her and their children.
Sergeant Justin Gallegos was 27 years old. A native of Tucson, Arizona, his friends described him as a man of excitement, courage, leadership, and kindness. He is remembered for his constant smile and his generosity. Justin leaves behind a five-year-old son. His family and friends will miss him dearly.
Sergeant Michael Scusa was 22 years old. After graduating from high school in New Jersey, he joined the Army to serve our country. Michael was serving his second tour of duty in the region. Before he died, he had told his wife that, if he was killed, he wanted to be buried in Colorado Springs to be close to his son. This son had been named after a friend of Michael's who was also lost in Iraq.
Sergeant Joshua Kirk was 30 years old. He grew up in Idaho, where his family still lives. He had followed his childhood dream of entering the Army, and was serving his second tour in Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and 2-year-old daughter.
Specialist Stephan Mace was 21 years old. Born in Virginia, he grew up loving sports, wildlife, and the outdoors. His mother said that he always had a smile on his face. His grandfather, who had served in the CIA, taught Stephan what it means to serve your country. Stephan recently returned home for a 15-day leave trip, and his mother said that he returned to his post without fear.
Private First Class Kevin C. Thomson was 22 years old. He joined the Army just last year. Originally from Reno, his friends described him as the type of person who could make anyone laugh. He cared little for material things and put more emphasis on the people around him. His photograph hangs in the Reno grocery store where he worked after high school. He will be missed by his family and friends in Nevada and California.
Sergeant Joshua Hardt was 24 years old. He was described by family and friends as an extrovert and athlete. He was so talented on the field, actually, that his high school football helmet was retired. Seeing the successes of his older brother in the military, he followed his brother into the Army. He is survived by his wife, his hometown sweetheart, who moved with him to Colorado after he was stationed at Fort Carson.
Specialist Christopher Griffin was 24 years old. Coming from a small town in Michigan, friends say they knew he would end up serving his country. Serving in the Army was his longtime goal. He played football and wrestled in high school, and made his friends laugh. Christopher's family in Michigan is proud of his service, and his hometown has made plans to name a street after him.
In addition, we recently have learned that a ninth Fort Carson soldier was killed in Afghanistan this weekend in a separate attack. Specialist Kevin O. Hill, of New York, died on Sunday. He was 23 years old.
At great personal risk, these nine men braved a war in a far away land. They pushed forward into great danger to protect us here at home. When asked, they answered the call of duty and performed their missions with distinction.
Coloradans are immensely grateful for their selfless dedication, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones today. I hope their pain is eased by the knowledge that these soldiers will always be remembered and honored.
Mr. President, let us all remember the incredible sacrifices made by nine young people for America's freedom and our safety here at home. I know I speak for all 100 members of the Senate in offering America's condolences and gratitude to all nine of these mourning families on this day.
I yield the floor.