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Minnesota National Guard
Building Legacy

COB Basra " Soldiers attended a series of dedication ceremonies at several prominent buildings at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Dec 31 to commemorate the achievements and sacrifices of five 34th Infantry Division Soldiers   

Speakers recounted the lives and accomplishments of the Soldiers and unveiled special plaques at the headquarters building, the band hall, the combined gym and USO, the troop medical clinic and the Post Exchange

The first ceremony was held at the headquarters building and began with the singing of the national anthem by Sgt Jennifer MacDonald, of the 34th Inf Div Band

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Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, 34th Inf Div commander, spoke at the dedication of the headquarters building that was renamed "The General John W Vessey Headquarters Building"

The retired Vessey served with the 34th Inf Div " also known as the "Red Bulls" " in World War II and is a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Nash also spoke regarding four fallen Soldiers

"From this day forward," he said, "As you enter the "˜Major Steven Hutchison Memorial Band Hall, the Specialist Daniel P Drevnick Memorial Gym and USO, the Specialist Carlos E Wilcox Memorial Troop Medical Clinic, or the Specialist James D Wertish Memorial Post Exchange " remember with gratitude those who gave their last full measure of devotion to a cause much greater than themselves"

The Division flag was folded to be presented to Vessey upon the "Red Bull's" return to their home state of Minnesota

The final three ceremonies, in honor of Drevnick, Wilcox, and Wertish drew a large crowd from the fallen Soldiers' own 34th Military Police Co

Robert McGrane, of Spring Valley, Wis, who works law and order with 1st platoon, 34th MPs said he was glad his friends were being recognized during the ceremonies

"It means a lot, not just to me, but my whole platoon," he said, "It means these guys are getting honored " their memory's going to be there throughout the whole deployment for other Soldiers who are here"

Spc Brandon Hempel, of Spring Grove, Minn, a driver and gunner with the 34th MP Co, agreed

 "It shows that everyone here really did care about what happened that night," he said "A lot of it just shows respect," he said

During the ceremony at the USO and gym, Soldiers nodded their heads in agreement when Drevnick's "lighthearted" nature was remarked on

The TMC was dedicated to Wilcox, a medic, for his commitment to improving his medical knowledge, which Hempel said was accurate

"Wilcox always had books," he said, "Any time we were in the truck he'd throw out medical things, and we'd say, "˜What?'"

The PX, a source of many Soldiers' sports equipment purchases, reflected Wertish's inclinations toward spending much time outside

During the ceremony there, a story was told about Wertish breaking his collar bone while riding on a snow mobile right before his deployment to Iraq

His leaders commented on how his sense of duty showed in his concerned and apologetic response to the accident

Finding a way to commemorate Soldiers is very important, said Hempel

"I don't want their memory to go unknown," he said, "The PX was named after Spc Wertish, TMC after Spc Wilcox, and the USO after Drevnick, [and] it shows that they were here, something happened, their memory's not forgotten, it's with us"

The three MPs were killed by a rocket attack on COB Basra on July 16, 2009

Hutchison was killed in action in Basrah, May 10, 2009
With the new year often being a time of reflection for many, McGrane said he will be thinking back on his friends

"We're going to miss you guys," he said, "You'll never be forgotten; you'll always be in our hearts"

By Spc Samuel Soza, 367th MPAD
1 Jan, 2010


Article source: http://www.theredbulls.org/article00547



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