Slain Rangers Honored at Home Base
FORT BENNING, Ga. (AP) _ Six pairs of black Army combat boots sat on the stage, propping up M16 rifles that each held a black ranger beret.
They stood in place of six Fort Benning soldiers killed in Somalia, and eulogized Friday before nearly 2,000 family members, friends and fellow soldiers.
″Their act of selflessness and dedication deserve our highest praise,″ said Lt. Col. James T. Jackson, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. ″Everything comes with a price. The price we paid on this operation was the lives of six outstanding young men.″
Rangers, some of whom had served in Somalia with the fallen soldiers, sang the national anthem and recited the ranger creed during the hour-long memorial.
The six were killed in Mogadishu during a 10-hour battle Sunday between 70 rangers and several hundred Somali militiamen armed with automatic rifles and rocket launchers. A total of 15 U.S. soldiers were killed and 75 wounded.
″We believe the situation could have been much worse had it not been for the extraordinary courage and valor of the rangers,″ said Maj. Luke Green, a ranger spokesman, after the ceremony.
The six killed were Cpl. James M. Cavaco of Forestdale, Mass.; Spec. Dominick M. Pilla of Vineland, N.J.; Sgt. Lorenzo M. Ruiz of El Paso, Texas; Spec. James E. Smith of Long Valley, N.J.; Pfc. Richard W. Kowalewski Jr. of Crucible, Pa.; and Sgt. James C. Joyce of Plano, Texas.
They were sent with other U.S. troops to help protect food stations and supply lines in a nation that was wracked by starvation and battles between rival Somali clans.
Across the state at Fort Stewart, authorities reported Friday that a soldier was fatally shot during a Somalia-related training exercise. One thousand Fort Stewart soldiers are to leave for the east African nation in the days ahead.
Pvt. 1st Class Limeal Gant of Gainesville, Fla., who was attached to the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, was killed Thursday morning, said Dean Wohlgemuth, a spokesman for the southeast Georgia fort.
The accident was under investigation and no other details were available, Wohlgemuth said.
Earlier in the week, 200 soldiers left Fort Stewart for Somalia, and 800 more will fly there in about two weeks, Wohlgenuth said.
″There’s always apprehension in going into a possible hostile situation,″ he said. ″However, every soldier I’ve heard saying anything has said, ‘This is my job, this is why I’m in the Army.’ I think they’re all proud to serve.″