By Sgt. Mary Flynn, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 12, 2007 - Hundreds of soldiers, family members and friends gathered at Arlington National Cemetery today to honor 12 soldiers killed in a helicopter crash Iraq earlier this year. The soldiers, 10 from the Army National Guard and two from the active Army, were killed northeast of Baghdad on Jan. 20 when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Their combat deaths were the highest number of National Guard fatalities in a single incident since 2001.
They were Army Guard soldiers:
Col. Paul M. Kelly, of Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III, of the Virgin Islands; Capt. Michael V. Taylor, of Arkansas; Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, of Texas; Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn L. Gabbard, of Iowa; Command Sgt. Maj. Roger W. Haller, of Maryland; 1st Sgt. William T. Warren, of Arkansas; Sgt. 1st Class Floyd E. Lake Sr., of the Virgin Islands; Sgt. 1st Class John G. Brown, of Arkansas; and Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, of Virginia. The active-duty Army soldiers killed were Col. Brian D. Allgood, of Oklahoma, and Cpl. Victor M. Langarica, of Georgia.
Mourners gathered in a grassy area at the cemetery near a hillside, where other group interments have been held. Honors included a casket team, a firing party and a bugler who played "Taps." A single casket contained remains of the 12 soldiers, but there were separate flags for each deceased soldier.
Honor guard members ceremoniously touched each flag to the casket before presenting them to the members of the 12 families.
Service leaders including Army Secretary Pete Geren, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody, Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, and several state adjutants general stood silently near the families during the ceremony.
"I think it was the right thing to do," Vaughn said. The country owes it to the families to inter these soldiers at Arlington, to let them know that the whole nation is behind them, he said.
Vaughn held a reception for the 12 families at the Army National Guard Readiness Center here following the ceremony.
"There is a healing piece that goes with this," he said. "(There's a) helpful healing between people who have the exact same issue, (who can) wrap their arms around and look at someone who's going through precisely the same thing."
(Army Sgt. Mary Flynn is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)