Editor's note: This story was written by Sgt. John Ortiz, a journalist in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division who just returned from Afghanistan
On a cloudy day at the 1st Armored Division Chapel, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team part of the 1st Armored Division said its final goodbyes June 13 to three soldiers who were killed in action while deployed to eastern Afghanistan.
The family of Staff Sgt. Roberto Loeza and the friends of Spc. Kedith L. Jacobs, and Pfc. Leroy Deronde, III came together at the chapel to listen to memories of the three from friends and coworkers. The three Bulldog soldiers where the eighth, ninth, and tenth fatalities of the brigade which deployed September 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Logar and Wardak Provinces.
It was a remembrance of the good times and the hard times spent with all three soldiers in garrison and in Afghanistan. All three were killed within two days of each other. Loeza was killed when his combat outpost came under attack May 25 and both Jacobs and Deronde were killed when their unit was attacked by enemy forces May 27. It was a somber Memorial weekend for the brigade.
Loeza, a native of El Paso, was an infantryman assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment; Jacobs, a native of Denver, was communications specialist assigned to Headquarter and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment; and Deronde, a native of Jersey City, N.J., was a vehicle driver assigned to Fox Company, 2-5 Infantry.
One by one, the friends who knew the heroes were called to the podium to talk on their experience with their friends to more than 250 soldiers and family members that came to honor each soldier?s death and sacrifice.
"Each of us has been affected by the deaths of the three heroes we are here to remember today," said Maj. Joel Newsom, the Bulldog Brigade Rear Detachment Commander. "It is my hope this memorial service is a small step on the road to healing as we grieve the loss of our brothers-in-arms.
"As soon as I met [Roberto Loeza], I knew he was a no nonsense kid of guy," said Staff Sgt. David McGlumphy, a fellow squad leader with Charlie Company, 1-41 Infantry. "He was always in front leading Soldiers. Being a NCO and a paratrooper, it wasn't what he did, but what he was. He was a man who did the right thing."
As the 2-5 Infantry Communications Shop Foreman, Staff Sgt. Byron Smith was, in a large part, always around Spc. Kedith L. Jacobs.
?He was one of my soldiers, his personality fit the workplace and made life less hard for the soldiers,? said Smith. ?As a junior soldier he was able to learn his job and apply his abilities at a rapid pace. As a leader, it was comforting to know that he could accomplish tasks on par with the senior members of the team.?
Even though the memorial was a somber event, Jacobs with his personality was in the memories spoken by Smith. ?He was always playing video games and would show me how old I really am,? he said. ?You always knew when he was around; if you didn?t, he was probably sleeping.?
Recalling the memories of his friend and fellow squad member was difficult for Spc. Luke Avila.
?There was no such word as quit in Private 1st Class Leroy Deronde, III?s vocabulary. He didn?t have an easy time growing up, but despite the loss of his mother at a young age, being placed in foster care, and dropping out of high school; he managed to overcome all the obstacles and more to do what he desired the most, which was helping his family,? said Avila.
?He became a truck driver even though he didn?t have a driver?s license and had never driven a car in his life. He has the drive and determination to be the best he could and impress everyone,? he said.
Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Hartenberg, the Rear Detachment Chaplain for the brigade, spoke of the impact each of these Soldiers have had on those who knew them.
?The life of these three soldiers will leave a profound mark on each one of our lives,? said Hartenberg. ?Once again we are reminded that freedom is not free. They gave the last measure of devotion for what each of us believe in and fight for each and every day.?
He also repeated the words of Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, saying ??While our brothers and sisters fell in a place far from home, far from their families, the values for which they stood and for which they lived and for which they died occupy an enduring place in our hearts. Those values: freedom, duty, selflessness and sacrifice.??