Every remembrance for a fallen soldier takes Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dan Walters back to Afghanistan.
Almost 14 years ago on Sept. 25, 2005, near Daychopabn district in southern Zabul, a Taliban’s rocket-propelled grenade struck a CH-47 helicopter, sending the Chinook’s crew of five to their deaths. Walters, a Nevada Army National Guard pilot from Genoa, had also been deployed to Afghanistan earlier in the year.
Walters, along with several hundred veterans, Gold Star families and friends of the military, gathered behind the Capitol on Friday morning for the unveiling of a memorial that lists all 895 Nevadans who lost their lives while serving their country from the Civil War to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is really special to remember John Flynn and Patrick Stewart,” Walters said, while paying special recognition to each soldier’s spouse and to the other three guardsmen on the flight — two from Oregon and the fifth from Arizona.
Three years ago on the 10th anniversary of the downing of the helicopter, the Nevada Army National Guard conducted a memorial for Mustang 22.
A reception dedicating the Battle Born Memorial to Nevada’s fallen heroes began the two-hour ceremony Friday inside the lobby of the State Archives and Library Building with the Gold Star Family members. The formal ceremony, however, began outside in the Capitol Plaza at 10 a.m. with a C-130 flyover heading north. As the state’s commander in chief, Gov. Brian Sandoval said in his opening remarks Nevada is a Battle Born state rising out of the days of the Civil War in 1864, and the motto is “All for Our Country.”
“I’m humbled and honored to be in your presence,” said Sandoval, who has made Nevada one of the top military-friendly states. “Thank you for your service and sacrifice … today is another chapter in the story of our Nevada spirit … our story, our history, who we are, how we got here, all we’ve been through, all we’ve achieved and where we’re going.”
Sandoval said the idea for the memorial surfaced in 2013 with the passage of Senate Bill 420, championed by state Sen. David Parks. The Legislature passed funding for the project last year, and construction began during the summer of 2018 and finished this week.
The selection process included members of the Nevada Arts Council, Veterans Service Commission and architects. Initially, the Nevada Department of Veteran Services said 15 artists vied for the project but narrowed the number to three in 2016. The panel selected PUNCH Architecture from Las Vegas. The unique design that lists names of the fallen allows for expansion to add more names. The memorial’s ceiling or roof contains plates with the names cut out on steel plates so light reflects the names below.
The two-term governor, who leaves office in early January, said he was inspired by a similar memorial the Canadians have in Ottawa, their capital. Inside a special room, a glass sheet protected a book with the names of fallen military men and women
“I knew Nevada needed a book,” Sandoval recalled.
After much work was done by Caleb Cage, former director of the Nevada Department of Veteran Services, Sandoval unveiled the book — with three flags surrounding it — in the Capitol down the hall from the governor’s office. Each week Sandoval turns a page.
“This morning, some of the fallen heroes are from World War I,” he said, thus a fitting remembrance as many Nevadans will celebrate the 100th anniversary on Sunday marking the end of the “war to end all wars.”
It’s that legacy from World War I and other wars Sandoval wants to preserve for future generations. Sandoval said it was fitting to share the memorial with Gold Star families, many of whom lost a brother, sister, a child or parent
“Our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren will come to this place, which, in my humble opinion, is holy ground, a sanctuary where our heroes’ stories will be shared and remembered,” he said, adding these veterans made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Rev. Lloyd Byers, a retired minister who formerly resided in Sparks but now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, said his son, Joshua, was a leader in ROTC, in school and in the U.S. Army. A 1996 West Point graduate, the Army captain died July 3, 2003, when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded under his Humvee near Ramadi, Iraq.
The 29-year-old Byers was the 13th soldier from Fort Carson, Colorado, who died in the country. Lloyd Byers said even with his son dying and his head on the vehicle’s seat, the Humvee driver told a story of his captain who urged his men — in three words — to keep moving forward.
“I’m proud of him and blessed and honored to see his name here,” Byers said. “We were best friends and when we come here, I see this and see the time spent with the dedication. It’s an honor for me.”
Lloyd Byers said he still hurts with the loss of his son, but Nevada’s dedication of a memorial to the fallen lessens the pain.
“Nevada is one of the most military-minded states — certainly an honor to have lived here in Nevada for many years,” he said.
Churchill County High School graduate Eddie Molino received his diploma in 1963 and attended Long Beach State. In 1966 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. His sister, Connie Hooper, and a niece, Kimberly Hooper, attended Friday’s ceremony.
“He was the best brother. He was our older brother who took care of us,” said Connie Hooper.
Assigned to Special Forces, the Army captain was on his second tour in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot with C Troop, 7th Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 1st Aviation Brigade. According to eye witnesses, a Huey helicopter with three others aboard crashed in Cambodia because of a thrown main rotor blade, killing all four on May 10, 1970. Molino, a member of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, is interred in the Churchill County Cemetery.
Connie Hooper praised the memorial and what it means to Gold Star families.
“It’s some place we can come to be safe,” she said. “It’s really nice, and I think of all the fallen veterans.”
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