"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

This is how the 82nd pay tribute to their fallen

>> Friday, October 15, 2004

Hugh Hewitt posts a letter from the 82nd Airborne.

There's just something special, maybe even fulfilling, about a paratrooper's inaugural jump in the 82nd Airborne Division. Whether it's the initial shock of the parachute opening, the breeze blowing beneath the canopy or the picture-perfect landing they compare to a sack of potatoes, every 82nd paratrooper may remember that particular day with the fondness of memories.

For 54 paratroopers from Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, the airborne operation they conducted on July 6, at Sicily Drop Zone may be another jump they won't soon forget.

The jump was dedicated to Sgt. Cory Mracek. He completed five jumps during the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, GA., but never got his first jump with the 82nd. He was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb before he had the chance. Keeping a promise the battery made to Mracek’s family, his name was put on the jump manifest, officially giving Mracek his first jump.

Mracek, 26, was assigned to the battery on December 11, 2003. Right away, the battery befriended him. He was quickly welcomed to the Alpha Battery family.

"New guys and outsiders are not always welcomed at first, but he fit in right away," said. Spc. Jesse Runge, a forward observer with the battery. "He knew his job well, and we respected the kind of person he was."

The paratroopers of the battery remember Mracek for his smile and sense of humor. He was a sports fanatic and rooted for the Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche. Capt. Mathew Madison, battalion chaplain, joked about a hockey game Mracek attended between the Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C.

"He was the only person in the stands cheering for the Avalanche," Madison said with a laugh. "He was pretty dedicated to his team."

Mracek carried the same type of dedication, but as a Soldier, to Iraq. By Jan. 15, he and 34 paratroopers from the battery were conducting operations south of Baghdad with the 82nd's 1st Brigade Combat Team.

On Jan. 27, Mracek and his team were patrolling an area near Iskandariyah, Iraq. They noticed a suspicious object on the side of the road. He and two infantry soldiers approached the object. All three were killed by the detonation.

"It was a big shock for us (at Fort Bragg) because they had only been on the ground in Iraq for about ten days," said Capt. Norberto Menendez, battery commander.

"It was a very deep loss for me and the other guys in the platoon," said Staff Sgt. Abel Almanza, Mracek's team chief during the deployment. "He was a great leader and friend. He loved being a Soldier."

Immediately after the battery was notified of Mracek’s death, Menendez and Madison began making arrangements for the funeral. Several paratroopers from the battery flew to Nebraska to help bury their fellow paratrooper.

"The most special thing about the funeral was that we got to bury him," Menedez said.

During the memorial service, Menendez gave Mracek’s eulogy. The eulogy told of Mracek's professionalism as a Soldier and how important it was to him to get his sixth jump.

"We will not fail him," Menendez read. "(The battery) will make a jump in honor of Cory. He will get his sixth jump."

The battery kept their promise. Mracek was the 55th paratrooper on the July 6th jump roster. 1st Lt. Michael Tumlin, the battery's executive officer, jumped with Mracek's boots and beret in a back pack. Menendez filled out Mracek's jump log, officially giving him his sixth jump, his first jump as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.



There are several words that describe soldiers; duty, pride, dedication, discipline, loyalty, courage, and camaraderie. Not all civilians will understand what the symbolic jump means to Mracek or his family, but you should know that it does mean a lot. It is this sense of community and remembrance that makes the US military the best in the world. Oh ok, the Brits and Aussies are good too and for the same reason.

While in combat, politics mean nothing, reason mean nothing; it's just you, your friends and those trying to kill you. You fight because you don't want to let your friends down. You don't want to be the one not doing their fair share. You fight for your band of brothers. It's a sentiment Shakespeare nails in Henry V.

Furthermore, having been at such cerimonial events myself, I bet that soldiers on the ground saluted Mracek and that his baret and boots were given honor guard treatment the entire time. This fills the heart and soul of all soldiers and vets as it should with every patriotic American. Mracek, you did not die in vain. I, and people like me, will make sure of it.

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