Green Berets killed in combat honored at ceremony

May 31, 2010 8:31:56 PM PDT
The U.S. Army Special Forces Command remembered its 18 Special Forces soldiers lost in combat over the past year at a special event Monday.

The 42nd annual Special Forces Memorial Day ceremony was held at the Army Special Operations Forces Plaza.

Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass memorialized the 18 Special Forces Soldiers who were killed in action and 90 Special Forces Association members who have died during the past year. He also praised the widows and families for raising and supporting the soldiers.

"We're blessed to have these men," he said.

After the speech, Repass placed a wreath near the Special Forces Memorial statue with Ronnie McCan, president of the Special Forces Association.

Among those attending the ceremony was Gold Star Wide Robyn Young. She lost her Special Forces husband - Master Sergeant Mitchell Young - two years ago in Afghanistan.

She described him as a good soldier, good son, and good father - just a guy everybody wanted to know. Her father is a former Green Beret. Monday, he placed a pin on her blouse that honors the memory of her husband.

"It's a gold star, which is something that all of the survivors get once they lose their loved ones. But the significance is what it says about him. That he believed in this country enough to give up his life for it," she said.

"He was a good son-in-law and as all these young men are good I think a lot of all of them," said Young's father Bob Gilstrap. "And, I really appreciate what they have done for us in the past and what some of my friends did."

Repass commands about 10,000 soldiers in the Army's five active-duty groups and two National Guard groups. So what does a commanding general tell a widow when asked if her husband - who was killed in action - made a difference?

"I tell them they made a difference. They made a difference to me. They made a difference to the villagers that they touched in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Philippines, and the other places," said Repass. "These are our men. They're part of the fabric of our society. So yes, they made a difference."

The names of the 18 green berets were placed on a new memorial wall outside the Special Operations Command on post. Jerry Levee searched the wall for two members of his Special Forces team who were killed in action years ago.

"Frank Batalotti and Van Olstein. They were important to me because they were on my team and they were… I was their leader and I just think about of them all the time," he said.

The total number of United States casualties reached 1000 in Afghanistan this month. More than four thousand have died in Iraq.

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