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  • The days of the week would tend to run together while we were in Iraq. But I’ll forever remember July 16th in 2005 was a Saturday.

    It was a mail run day for Ron Wood and the other soldiers on his crew. They were running a Special Ops Mission out of Tikrit, operating on their own away from our main base in Kirkuk. They had been gone for several days and made a quick run back up to FOB Warrior to pick up their mail. They were in good spirts it seemed, glad to have a break, albeit a brief one.

    Ron stopped into the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to meet with the command element, Captain Darcy Burt and First Sergeant Kevin Martinez. Plans were reviewed, details covered. Ron was running this special ops mission, having recently been promoted to Sergeant First Class. But that wasn’t the only reason.

    Ron Wood working out doing squats with two M240B Machine Guns. Photo: Bravo Battery.

    Ron made a concerted effort to do everything right. He pushed himself to become stronger physical, mentally, emotionally. Ron loved to work out. He was arguably the most physical fit soldier in our unit. One of my favorite memories of Ron is watching him lift weights with whatever could be improvised, like ammo cans and machine guns. 

     

    Ron Wood exuded the Army Leadership Values.

    Ron was running the crew on the Special Ops mission because he was the right man for the job. Ron was the epitome of what a soldier should be. More than just physically strong and well-built, a result of years working out in the gym, Ron understood the Army and how it works. Ron was a gifted leader of soldiers, understanding how to motivate and lead in ways his men wanted to follow. They were loyal to him and would follow him anywhere.

    Ron and his crew headed back to Tikrit that Saturday afternoon. They had only been gone about an hour when the radio traffic fired up about a convoy being hit by an IED. I was working in the Operations Center at the time and quickly realized this was the same route Ron’s crew was on. They were traveling piggyback with another unit so we weren’t in direct radio contact with them.

    Our guys had experienced many IED attacks while in Iraq. Fortunately, every one of them had been nothing more than vehicles peppered with shrapnel and soldiers shook up. Too many close calls and I was afraid one of these times their luck would run out.

    July 16, 2005 would be the day.

    A call for a MEDIVAC chopper came over the radio followed by reports of three casualties. The term casualty is used generically for anyone injured or killed. By now the command leadership was all in the Operations Center monitoring the radio traffic for more details.

    Within a few minutes the units on scene reported one KIA (Killed in Action) and two WIA’s (Wounded in Action) with Battle Roster numbers to follow. Battle Rosters are identification numbers assigned to every soldier. As they read the first Battle Roster number, two people wrote it down while I checked it against our list. As soon as they got it out, we knew Ron Wood had been killed. My heart sunk and we were all stunned with the realization our worst fear had just been realized. Two more Battle Rosters were read indicating Sergeant Chris Olsen and Specialist Eric Lund had both been wounded.

    The charred remains of Ron Wood’s Humvee. Photo: Bravo Battery.

    While I could only imagine the chaos happening at the scene, inside the Operations Center it was starkly subdued. Work continued, the radio traffic continuously updating, but under an eerie halo of shock and disbelief. We had seen Ron and his crew less than an hour previous. Now Ron was gone, and Chris and Eric were in severe need of trauma care. We stood down all operations and patrols for two days to regroup and mourn the loss of our brother in arms.

     

    Cpt. Darcy Burt and 1st Sergeant Kevin Martinez salute the Battlefield Cross at Ron Wood’s Memorial in Iraq.

    Soldiers who performed the “21 Gun Salute” formerly salute the Battlefield Cross at Ron Wood’s Memorial in Iraq.

    On Thursday a formal memorial service for Ron was held during which there were heart-felt tributes, a final roll call for the soldier, a moment of silence, a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps and the traditional empty boots, dog tags and an inverted rifle with a helmet on top to represented the fallen comrade.

    The following Saturday we had a chance to view Ron’s remains in the base morgue. The Battalion Chaplain offered words and prayer. Sergeant Ed Harris offered a ‘family’ prayer.

    1st Sergeant Martinez has a phrase he repeated so often it almost become our official slogan: Do The Right Thing! Ron Wood was a warrior who did the right thing. Even in his death, he was doing all the right things. He was the very best soldier of Bravo Battery. 1st Sergeant Martinez said Ron lived his life by the Soldier’s Creed, and gave his life defending that creed.

    Ron Wood’s fellow soldiers carry his flag draped coffin to a waiting C130 for transport back to the United States.

    Sunday morning there was a ‘ramp side’ ceremony. This is where Ron’s remains in a flag draped coffin were carried from the FLA (military ambulance) to the C-130 aircraft flown in to take him home. It’s a formal ceremony which all available personnel attend. I estimate roughly a thousand Army and Air Force personnel were there. I had only been to one before, that for Specialist French, a female soldier from Idaho belonging to the 145th Support Battalion in our 116th Brigade. It was very solemn and touching.

    Ron Wood’s fellow soldiers salute his flag draped coffin inside a C130 prior to transport back to the United States.

    The ramp side ceremony for Ron was even more touching because he was one of ours. After a group of Bravo Battery soldiers retrieved Ron’s casket from the FLA, the chaplain offer his first prayer. ‘Present Arms’ is sounded and we all salute as the casket is then carried between the ranks of soldiers and airmen and past the color guard to the waiting aircraft. The casket bearers stopped at the bottom of the aircraft ramp and the chaplain offered a final prayer, this time a reading of the 23rd Psalms…

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

    The casket was then walked onto the plane and the bearers offer a final salute before marching off. The aircraft loadmaster formally accepted the remains and the ceremony was finished. 

    Captain Darcy Burt, front right, and fellow soldiers say a final goodbye to Ron Wood.

    Then it was time to say goodbye. Not a word was said but we all followed as Captain Burt slowly walked to the tail of the aircraft, pausing to say a final goodbye to Ron. For a moment I stood to the side of him, feeling for a brief moment the enormity of the weight he carried as our commander.

    I took my turn to say goodbye. I stood at attention, slowly saluted, then moved away as my emotions overwhelmed me again.

    Though death is part of life, it was a shock to lose a brother-in-arms. It hurts deeper than you can ever imagine. We wanted to fix it, find out who was responsible. But it’s not always that easy.

    Captain Darcy Burt, in a touching tribute from Iraq, called Ron “the finest Soldier that the Utah National Guard has to offer.”

    “Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Wood is the best noncommissioned officer I have ever worked with. He was the total package and I cannot replace him,” Burt wrote. “He has sealed his love for country, duty and honor with his own blood. We will never forget.”

    Most military units have a slogan they shout when called to attention. Bravo Battery changed theirs to honor Ron Wood: Warrior First.

    Ten Years Later

    Our time in Iraq seems like a lifetime ago. Reading my journals these past couple of weeks, and looking through hundreds of pictures, has made it feel like yesterday.

    Ron Wood’s headstone in Hurricane, Utah.

    To commemorate the ten year anniversary, a few of Ron’s fellow soldiers took a motorcycle ride to see him where he’s buried in Hurricane, Utah. Then a couple days later several of us gathered for a reunion. Like any reunion, we shared stories, reminiscenced, and caught up with families and careers. Ron’s parents, Ron and Jody Wood, also joined us for our gathering.

    I leave you with a these final pictures of the Boys of Bravo Battery. Then, and Now.

    The Boys of Bravo Battery in Kirkuk, Iraq, late summer 2005. Photo: Bravo Battery.

    “Boys of Bravo Battery” Ten Year Reunion, with Ron Wood’s parents (front left) Ron and Jody Wood, July 18, 2005.

    “Boys of Bravo Battery” Ten Year Reunion, July 18, 2005.

    Follow this link to read Part 1 of the Boys of Bravo Battery.

    Have a great Monday. Thanks for letting me share.

    p.s. Take 15 minutes today to experience the Final Rollcall, TAPS, and 21 Gun Salute for Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Wood.

    Author’s Note: Whenever one attempts to share a piece of history, that history will always be shared through the eyes of the author. Stated facts are given as best as I can recall or support through my personal journals, notes, and pictures. All pictures were taken by me except where noted. Finally, as my writing partially serves the purpose of recording the history of Bravo Battery’s Iraq Deployment, I’m including links to relevant news articles.

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    “Boys” of local Bravo Battery train for Iraq – July 20, 2004

    http://news.hjnews.com/news/boys-of-local-bravo-battery-train-for-iraq/article_605e0c45-de8e-5723-b06f-e1bae769a109.html

    Boys march home – November 19, 2005

    http://news.hjnews.com/news/boys-march-home/article_45ed257a-1307-578a-a1f3-1091203ae63a.html

    Looking back in time – December 30, 2004

    http://news.hjnews.com/archives-1/looking-back-in-time/article_a0c964b5-0c8d-52d9-9339-c631b6f122aa.html

    U.S. troops donate 800 pairs of shoes to kids in rural Iraq – May 12, 2005

    http://www.stripes.com/news/u-s-troops-donate-800-pairs-of-shoes-to-kids-in-rural-iraq-1.33108

    Cache Guardsmen a year out – July 03, 2005

    http://news.hjnews.com/news/cache-guardsmen-a-year-out/article_0d98ac8f-f249-512c-85b6-54faa79f16cb.html

    Utah Soldier Dies in Iraq, Two Others Wounded – July 20, 2005

    http://www.ut.ngb.army.mil/html/pao/news/20july05.html

    'Gentle giant' soldier laid to rest in Cedar – July 27, 2005

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/600151458/Gentle-giant-soldier-laid-to-rest-in-Cedar.html?pg=all

    A final salute to a soldier – July 27, 2005

    http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_2892932

    Soldiers head home – November 08, 2005

    http://news.hjnews.com/news/soldiers-head-home/article_a36af781-b780-53bf-b6db-0c9bfceffcf6.html

    So happy to be back – November 22, 2005

    http://news.hjnews.com/news/so-happy-to-be-back/article_1c4f21e6-758b-5262-8cf3-dbf110cdc74b.html

    Parades in N. Utah give warm ‘welcome home’ to Iraq vets – November 22, 2005

    http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_3240971

    Brigham City and Logan Welcome the 1-148th Field Artillery Home from Iraq – December 05, 2005

    http://www.ut.ngb.army.mil/html/pao/news/05dec05.html

    Faces from the front: Losing comrade a shock to Utahns – December 28, 2005

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/635172148/Losing-comrade-a-shock-to-Utahns.html?pg=all

    Fallen soldiers to be honored ahead of memorial – November 09, 2012

    http://www.ksl.com/?sid=22903863

    A Piece of World Trade Center History Tours the Country – March 06, 2014

    http://climbsocialmedia.com/?p=210

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    Les Patterson loves to share stories and the “Monday Morning Boost” is his way of sharing a story or two with family, friends, and clients. Les believes every person, business and organization has a story worth sharing. Since 1997 he has enjoyed finding compelling ways to share those stories through writing and producing radio commercials at the Cache Valley Media Group. Discover how he can help tell your story at www.CacheValleyMediaGroup.com. Feedback and comments are welcome at les@cvradio.com. ©2015, Les Patterson. All Rights Reserved. To UNSUBSCRIBE, reply to this email with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line and your email will be removed.