Local News

82nd Airborne Honors Its Troopers Who Will Not Return to the Post

Posted May 23, 2007 6:32 p.m. EDT

— Few units in Iraq and Afghanistan have endured as many losses this year as the 82nd Airborne Division, which calls Fort Bragg home when its personnel are not assigned to missions around the globe.

Since last Memorial Day, 59 paratroopers have died, more than had been lost in total since Sept. 11, 2001. They include the nine soldiers killed in April on the deadliest day of combat for Fort Bragg troopers since Vietnam. One of those was Staff Sgt. William C. “Clint” Moore of Benson.

Wednesday, while two-thirds of its troops are deployed overseas, the 82nd Airborne honored all its comrades who have fallen.

They are, in the words of the division’s commander, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, “men and women who remain American, all-American."

Their names read like a roll call of America: Hunt, Katzenberger, Martinez.

"They have volunteered to stand between the American people and those who would threaten our liberty," Austin said at a ceremony.

The children of Sgt. 1st Class Keith Callahan put their fingers on their father’s name on the memorial. It's among the 111 names of 82nd Airborne troopers killed in the war on terror.

The 82nd chorus sang "Amazing Grace."

There was a 21-gun salure.

“Taps” played.

Many survivors did not want to speak publicly about the service members they had lost, but others needed to talk, including those who treasured Staff Sgt. Travis Nixon of Maryville, Tenn. he died in Afghanistan in 2005.

"Coming back to the base, seeing this ... seeing all the uniforms. It kind of opens everything back up. It needs to be done," his mother, Maggie Nixon, said.

Sandra Fifer spoke about her son, Sgt. Eric Fifer of Greenwood, S.C., who had dreamed of being a soldier “from the time he was knee-high to a grasshopper." He died in Iraq in October 2005.

Soldiers wanted to talk, too.

Capt. Jacob Whiteside described the meaning of it all eloquently.

"Being able to walk in the back yard and cook a steak and be able to laugh with the kids — that's what it means to me, that I'm gonna know that when I take my son fishing, nobody’s gonna harm me because there’s people standing at point across the pond."