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News | Nov. 24, 2015

Resolute Support dining facility named for fallen sergeant major

By By Donald A Korpi, USFOR-A

KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 24, 2015) — Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division and Coalition partners honored a fallen hero Tuesday at a ceremony dedicating a memorial plaque at the Resolute Support Dining Facility.

Sgt. Maj. Wardell B. Turner, 48, from Nanticoke, Maryland, was assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Drum, New York, prior to deploying to Afghanistan in late 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Turner was killed one year ago today when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Spc. Joseph Riley, 27, also killed in the attack, was from Grove City, Ohio. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, prior to his deployment to Afghanistan.

The crowd of more than 200 Soldiers and warriors representing the many nations of the coalition quickly ended their conversations and discussions of ongoing missions and operations when the bagpiper began playing to signal the beginning of the dedication ceremony.

The two speakers for the event were, Maj. Gen. Gordon ‘Skip” Davis, commander, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and Command Sgt. Maj. Roshan Safi, command sergeant major of the Ground Forces Command, Afghan National Army (ANA).

Davis expressed his appreciation and respect for Turner as a Soldier, leader and family man. He remembered that Turner often mentioned his love of Soldiers, passion for the people of Afghanistan and his continuous talk of his family. Davis also reminded the crowd not to forget Riley and his family as well the other Soldiers injured in the attack during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Davis, Turner was known to live as he walked, and the lesson he shared with his kids was always to leave a place or situation better than you found it. Davis mentioned how Turner would often say to his soldiers to “rise above the challenge.”

Davis and Roshan embraced each other as Roshan was introduced as the guest speaker and former battle buddy of Turner, who served as Roshan’s senior enlisted U.S. adviser.

“The enemy that took the life of my friend was a coward,” said Roshan. “He loved everyone and did not want to hurt anyone, but just wanted to help the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan are going to also honor Turner and Riley at a later date by dedicating a training facility in their honor.”

After Roshan finished speaking the narrator invited all military personnel present to come up to the plaque and place a patch or coin to honor the fallen hero. One by one Soldiers, noncommissioned officers, and officers moved forward and placed their combat or unit patch on the special display mat or placed coins under the unveiled plaque.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, commander, 10th Mtn. Div., alongside the division’s Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Lewis stood silent as they placed a 10th Mountain Commander’s Coin at the feet of the plaque and slowly moved to the position of attention and presented honors to their fallen Soldier.

“Although Sgt. Maj. Turner is no longer here with us today, his contributions, selfless service, and mentorship to his community, the Army, and the people of Afghanistan, will never be forgotten,” said Bannister. “I am truly humbled and honored to currently serve as a team member in the division that he represented so well. It is his character and professionalism that the hundreds if not thousands, of soldiers whose lives he directly touched will continue to pass forward. His legacy as a hero is not over, but is just beginning.”

In honor of the anniversary of the death of both Turner and Riley, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division Headquarters, raised separate U.S. flags at the U.S. Forces Afghanistan compound, Bagram Air Field, to be sent to the fallen soldiers family members. HHC Commander, Capt. Judith Morgan, provided the flags for the event, she brought the group of soldiers to attention and present arms as the each flag was slowly raised and lowered.