By Douglas M. Rule
FORT CARSON, Colo., Nov. 5, 2006 – Vice President Richard B. Cheney praised soldiers here, many recently returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, for manning the "watchtowers of freedom" as they fight the terror war. Thousands of soldiers from every unit on post turned out to greet the vice president during his Nov. 3 visit and to be recognized for their service.
Among them were the 10th Special Forces Group and assets the 43rd Area Support Group, including the 10th Combat Support Hospital that recently returned from supporting the effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cheney also paid tribute to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, which is in the process of redeploying, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, that recently left for its second deployment to Iraq.
"America has always counted on the Army to defend our country and man the watchtowers of freedom," Cheney told the group. "And in our own time, soldiers of the United States are repaying that confidence every day as we fight the war on terror."
The vice president said he's impressed by the work being carried out at Fort Carson and the caliber of its troops. "Your duties are not easy, but you carry them out with skill and honor, and you play an absolutely vital role in the defense of this nation," he said. "I am proud to be in your company, and I bring the gratitude and good wishes from the commander in chief, President George W. Bush."
Following his formal speech, Cheney awarded Purple Heart awards to two Fort Carson soldiers: Spc. Ronald Hinkle, 1-8 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; and Capt. David Vankamp, 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd HBCT, 4th ID.
Hinkle was acting as a gunner in Iraq when his Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device, piercing his chest and arm. Nine of the 13 ligaments in his right shoulder had to be reattached, and his shrapnel wounds resulted in a serious staph infection that forced doctors to induce a coma to ensure his recovery.
Vankamp was providing security at a checkpoint in Iraq when a suicide bomber penetrated the perimeter and detonated the explosives strapped to his body, seriously burning Vankamp. After completing his branch advanced course, Vankamp already is planning to return to Iraq to continue the effort there.
Army Maj. Gen. Robert W. Mixon Jr., commander of Training Division West, 1st U.S. Army and Fort Carson, emphasized the importance leaders like Cheney paying personal visits to meet with the troops and thank them for their service.
"He reinforced that the leadership is firmly behind us," Mixon said. "We are in a long war and it is important that the soldiers know that they are supported from the highest levels."