Today, under the bleached light of the sun, the Nightstalkers gathered to pay our final respects to our fallen brothers. Our soldiers filed in for the better part of an hour, some so fresh off of a mission that their faces were still powdered with dust. They stood there in rows as straight and silent as a well tended field, lending solemn dignity to this inelegant patch of concrete. At our sides stood soldiers from every battalion in the 3rd Infantry Division – proof that the sense of loss that had rippled through our battalion echoed in every unit in the Division.
The first speaker, CSM Socrates remembered our Battalion Commander with the following words:
It is yet another afternoon in Southern Baghdad and we gather once again, to pay tribute all to our fallen leaders, brothers in arms and friends. This afternoon it is my heart breaking yet ultimate honor to attempt to describe for you my short yet, everlasting relationship with Colonel William Wesley Wood.
I first met this fine officer over lunch, just a few months ago. His first words, like the man himself, were to the point. I quote: “CSM give it to me straight, what is your assessment of our battalion? From that first conversation it was clear he was determined to complete the mission at hand, a mission given to him just a few hours before.
For the next few months our relationship would grow by leaps and bounds. I saw a stoic face change to a smile thru turbulent times and at the oddest of times. His embodiment of mission accomplishment would not be superseded by anything, or anyone. His direct approach to operational success was not to control, rather, in my opinion, he wanted every soldier know that he was not only sending orders down to the soldier level, he was also AT their ground level, actively participating in just about every operation. For he was a man who believed in what he planned.
To see a Battalion Commander stop his PSD along Route ****, walk away
from his vehicle and towards a small, unattended child, pull candy and a toy
from his pocket, then crouch down to the eye-level of that child so he could
give his gifts made a great impact not only on that child, but on the soldiers
he led. COL Wood was an officer of uncommon breed. He was not your average man. He continually
demonstrated in word and deeds his belief and allegiance to the cause of a
For me this happened one night while I was scrolling thru the daily myriad of e-mails that flood us day and night. He put his head in my office and said “Hey CSM get some sleep, tomorrow is another day.” I said “Roger Sir” and wished him good night as he walked away. As he disappeared I returned to the task at hand and my Harley Davidson wall clock struck midnight with its distinctive engine rumble. Suddenly, the Colonel appeared again: “ Oh yeah Harley’s suck.” This statement made me smile both on my face and in my heart and, no, I could not work again. I heard him laughing at me while he closed his door. As I attempted to get back at him he shouted “you should get a real horse” His laughter could be heard through the walls. There was nothing else I could do but laugh.
From that moment I began to know the man behind that stoic face. A man who love his daughter so much that he would often beckon me with “hey CSM did I show you this clip?” referring to his tapes of his daughter. I would fall for it every time, believing it to be a new video, it was, as before the same clip of his beloved Rachel taking her horse around a series of obstacles. Every time he showed me the same video, he would comment on how the horse had just missed the right step and how much better she was becoming at riding.
As time passed we shared stories of our wives and children, our military
careers and his hopes and aspiration. I once told him that I would suggest to
the Governor that he should become the next Army Advisor to the Adjutant
General of the
Over the last few days I have asked many of our soldiers and officers I could if they could tell me the exact date when the Colonel actually took command. Most - if not all - could not. In my book this distinguishes a great leader, for the men of his task force felt that he had been with them for so long. The Nightstalkers truly had become his battalion. Short was the time he was with us, eternally will his memory be seared in our souls.
Perhaps someday when I am blessed with grandchildren should I be asked the question that men of arms often look to for inspiration: “Grandpa,” they will say, “what did you do during the war?” I predict I will become teary eye and begin to tell a story of a man I once knew that had fallen along with many others, but the line in the sand he helped sustain, enforce and push forward was still standing; A man who believed in his Country, in his cause, and in the men he led. A man who is Forever Nightstalker:
William Wesley Wood - Colonel of Infantry - proud American - husband of Nancy - father of Rachel - lover of horses - and my Battalion Commander in the United States Army.
Once he had
finished I had the honor of remembering the finest company commander in the
United States Army. No words could have
honored Mike in as fitting a manner as he deserved. His true memorial will be turning streets filled with death and despair into places where the happy chatter of children can be heard. I tried my best to sum up my honored commander with these words:
CPT Michael Mckinnon was a good man. Just saying Mike was a good man sounds almost hollow and tinny over this microphone because it falls so far short of describing the true worth of Alpha Company’s commander. I’ve been given an impossible mission, because words have not yet been fashioned to properly describe a man as noble, as brave, as selfless and as gifted as CPT McKennon.
CPT Mackinnon came to A Co, 1-184 IN when we were at our lowest point - and through his perfect example and powerful will he took something broken and made it new again. From the moment he arrived he treated every soldier with dignity, grace, and respect. And because of that we loved him. He led with resolve, courage, and wisdom. And because of that we respected him. He never had to ask for either, he just spontaneously inspired that kind of devotion.
He was a soldier’s soldier who never
quailed, no matter how great the risk. But he was more then just a warrior, CPT Mackinnon had a heart whose
equal I will never again meet. He
I remember a time when CPT Mackinnon was visiting one of the local villages whose sheik had died and the question of who should be elected sheik came up. Each of the villagers offered up their suggestions, and they were all quickly booed down. Finally one of the villagers nominated CPT Mackinnon. As soon as he did everyone’s face lit up – and they all agreed CPT Mackinnon would make the best sheik. CPT Mackinnon deferred, and asked why they were so insistent on electing him sheik. They replied with one voice “Because you are the only one we can trust”
CPT Mackinnon and I would sit together
every night after everything settled down and he would talk about how much he
missed his wife Beth , his son Noah and his daughter Madison. His heart never strayed from his family, and
somehow our conversations always steered towards Madison and Noah’s last soccer game, or how he met his wife while attending West Point.
I cannot fathom the anguish his family is experiencing right now. I know that whatever pain we feel right now is magnified a thousand fold. To lose such a loving husband, and such a caring father seems like a great injustice. Mrs. Mackinnon – I am sorry we couldn’t bring Mike home to your loving arms. Please know that every soldier in A Company will carry Mike’s memory deep in their hearts, and his bright presence will never dim or weather with age. He was our commander, he was our hero, and he was our friend.
LT Irish followed by remembering his friend and fellow artilleryman, CPT Ray Hill, with these words:
A soldier and poet in a different war penned the following lines.
long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.
Oh when may it suffice? That is heavens part.
Our part is to murmur name upon name as a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come on limbs that have run wild.
What is it but nightfall; no not night but death.
And was it needless death after all?
We know their dreams enough to know that they dreamed and are dead.
What if it was excessive love that bewildered them until they died?
While we who are left are changed, changed utterly by a terrible beauty.
That same terrible beauty has changed us who are here today. Our friends and comrades have been stolen from us by a cowardly and despicable foe. The fact remains that we cannot allow their sacrifice to make a stone of our hearts, nor can we allow it to kill our dreams. These fallen men did in fact die from excessive love. They loved their country and their comrades more than they loved life itself. They were willing to take up a burden that others shun and many scorn in order to insure that our freedoms are preserved. We in turn must see that this fight is carried on. We will secure victory so that our children and the children of our fallen may have the opportunity to live in peace.
CPT Ray Hill was a friend of mine and a fellow Redleg. We met during the course of this deployment and I came to recognize several traits that typified him. First and foremost he was a kind and gentle man. He rarely had a harsh word for anyone. As the Battalion FSO he was in charge of plotting lethal fires. The truth of the matter is that he took more pleasure in plotting the distribution of Humanitarian assistance then he did in planning the destruction of his fellow man. Ray was the sort of man who was always willing to help another soldier, often at his own expense. He spent numerous hours coaching me through power point slides so that I had a quality product to brief. I know that on more than one occasion he devoted so much time to my portion of the brief that his own suffered. That was always his nature, to help others before himself.
Ray loved his family. The first thing you saw when entering his office were pictures of his wife and daughters. Anyone who spent any amount of time with Ray knew that his daughters were the center of his life. He constantly kept us updated as to their achievements in track, and how well they were doing in school. He worried that they were growing up to fast and that they were far too cute. He was afraid that they were starting to attract boys while he was away. He often joked that he was willing to risk going to jail in order to sneak enough guns home to drive all of the boys away.
CPT Hill we your soldiers of the Det will never forget you. You will live on in our hearts. HIKI NO! Sir.
SPC Shakere Guy was remembered by his friend and fellow soldier SPC G. As SPC G. stepped up to the podium he shared a little about the wonderful soldier we all knew as SPC Guy.
“I’m just Guy“... that was his favorite quote. There are many things for which he will be remembered, but what we will never forget is his desire to help others and his commitment to the mission assigned to him. He was committed to his family, his fiancé Latsha, his daughter Jezelle and to his brothers that are gathered here today.
He loved interacting with the Iraqi children and handing out soccer balls, T- shirts, beanie babies and candy that he would purchase from the PX out of his own pocket.
He had set goals for himself, he had planned on returning to school, purchasing a home, and a motorcycle upon completion of the mission. Although his personal goals were not accomplished, he did manage to accomplish a greater goal - giving other human beings a better way of life thru countless hours of no sleep and a lot of hard work and sweat. Guy was by my side engaging the enemy during our very first IED, followed by small arms fire. I couldn’t have asked for a better soldier by my side. He performed very well at his assigned duties, whether it be as a gunner or driver. He maintained a high level of alertness and was quick to point out weaknesses to help the team. Guy wore the uniform proudly.
One of his favorite songs was “Stacy’s Mom“. His pastimes were Madden Football 2006, internet and basket ball. Guy played basketball often but it was not one of his greatest talents, he would often lose to his Platoon Sgt SST Maj, a 40 year old man, Guy stated that he was going to loose his status as a basketball player. He had a great sense of humor, always wearing a smile and joking - making dull moments pleasant. He used to proudly describe himself by saying that he was half European and half Jamaican.
Let us not be sad, we should be proud of his commitment, professionalism and his contribution to helping those that were oppressed. Guy, no matter where you go, your brothers at Delta Company and Psy Ops will always be beside you. Our hearts will grieve but we know that you will be in peace. I am still having trouble absorbing the fact that you have parted with us, the only thing that I can think of is that God looked around and found an empty place, he put his arms around you and lifted you to rest and only he knows why.
As the ceremony came to a close soldiers and officers stepped up to the memorial that served as a focal point for our grief, and paid their last respects. I walked up to the memorial at the side of 1SG Nascar, and together we said our last goodbyes to our brothers in arms. We marched forward, held a long salute, and kneeled before the memorial. The 1SG placed the company guidon on Mike’s boots, and I placed a can of his beloved Copenhagen Snuff next to his photograph. And then we stood up, saluted and walked away. As we walked away in silence I barely noticed that my cheeks were wet with tears.