Every mission has a beginning and an inspiration. As the Founder and Co/Founder of the AFWMF, Kat and I have been asked, “Why do you continue to pursue the mission to build a Memorial for our Fallen Warriors?” The answer is very simple our inspiration started with six Fallen Warriors from Utah and their families. They have inspired us to move forward and make the American Fallen Warrior Memorial a reality. We have been challenged during the process but with every challenge a door opens. We know this mission is being guided by greater hands than ours. These Fallen Warriors and their families have personally impacted our lives and they continue to inspire and motivate us everyday. We made a promise to their families that we would make sure that they and the many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice, have a suitable place of honor. It is our duty as a nation to make sure we NEVER FORGET. We would like to introduce you to the six brave men who served, sacrificed all and continue to motivate us and push us forward. We call them the Utah6.
United States Army Spc. Jordan Matthew Byrd Of Grantsville, Utah was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Jordan was killed in action on Oct. 13, 2010, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire in Yahya Kheyl, Afghanistan. During the attack, a fellow soldier was wounded and Jordan, without regard for himself, went to his side to render medical attention. While Jordan was administering first aid, he lost his life. The wounded soldier that Jordan was administering first aid to survived. Jordan has received the following medals: Silver Star, Combat Medic Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, NATO medal, Army Service ribbon, Overseas ribbon, National Defense Service Medal. Jordan was a member of National Honor Society, Senior Class President. He loved snowboarding, music, fishing, fast cars, sports, baseball, football, spending time with cousins and friends. He always made time to help anyone with everything! He loved kids and was always full of life. He was energetic and always had a smile on his face. The greatest days in his life was signing up for a combat medic, the day he married his beautiful wife, Savanna and the birth of their precious son, Ayden. He was very proud to be a soldier and a medic. Jordan lived and loved life to the fullest.
United States Army Sergeant Aaron Keith Kramer of Salt Lake City, Utah was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Aaron was killed in action Sept. 16, 2010, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Very rarely was Aaron ever depressed or moody. Easily excitable and always quick to smile, Aaron was content with life. Even when conditions were at there worst he always found something to laugh about. His laugh was quiet and controlled as if he was embarrassed to become too loud. He always kept it to a subtle chuckle. When he was embarrassed his whole face, especially his cheeks, would blush bright red. Aaron smiled a lot. Mostly just a closed, reserved grin but when he became truly happy his grin would open and stretch across his face. His smile was true. Aaron worked hard and succeeded at what he did. He had every reason to brag but he was absolutely humble. He never begged for reward or attention. He usually kept his feelings to himself unless with the closest of friends or family. Aaron fought to control his emotions. Always staying calm and collected, it was hard to tell what he was thinking. On the inside, however, his emotions ran deep which drove him to push harder and do the things he was afraid of. Sensitive, loving, thoughtful, and loyal. An Idealist who felt obligated to do his part but was torn to leave those he loved. A reluctant leader, but an amazing leader nonetheless, who led by example. Always placing himself last, he truly cared for people. Aaron held his chin up and his head high but never stood above anyone. He did not want fame, money, or glory, just the simple dream of being back home.
United States Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Gabriel Wagstaff Of Orem, Utah was assigned to 5th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Matthew was killed in action on Sept. 21, 2010 during combat operations when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that he was in went down in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. As a child Matt was a bright, shiny star that excelled in everything he did. Even at the early age of 5 Matt always dreamed of flying, which never faltered and followed him through his adult life as he soared as a senior aviator flying Blackhawks for the Army. He grew to be an extraordinary man, always setting the bar high for others to follow. Matt was a very rare person in that he really did put everyone else before himself. Even though Matt was large in stature, anyone close to him knew he was a big teddy bear, with the softest, most caring heart. Matt was the most gentle, caring, loving and kind soul that a mother, father, brother, sister, uncle and wife ever could ask for. He wanted nothing more than to take care of his family and friends. Matt was the most unselfish person on the planet and would do anything for anyone in need regardless of what it was they needed. He encouraged everyone to be the best that they could be, never asking for anything in return and wished us nothing but strength, comfort and happiness. He did this throughout his life through his love, and in sacrificing for his country, he is doing the same not only for his family, but also for the entire nation. He will forever be in out hearts and forever our HERO
United States Marine Lance Corporal Nigel Kenton Olsen of Orem, Utah was assigned to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve; Camp Pendleton, Calif. Nigel was Killed In Action on March 4, 2010, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Nigel Olsen knew from a very young age that he would serve his country. He prepared for that dream all his life by spending his time immersed in the study of military history, military aircraft, warships, tanks and guns. His Sgt in Afghanistan would often stay up at night searching the Marine manual to come up with a question that he thought Nigel would not know the answer to, but was never successful. Nigel was always up for the next assignment and completed it with skill and a positive attitude. It’s been said that Nigel never complained, even when there was plenty to complain about. Nigel lived his life full of determination and integrity. In a speech given at a memorial held in Afghanistan, his Sgt said “if a vote were taken today, hands down, Nigel would win as the kindest man in the company”. On Jan. 20, Nigel should have turned 22 years old. One of his Marine brothers sent us this message of how Nigel celebrated his 21st birthday in Afghanistan….”We had been on watch for 24 hours and it was cold and windy and miserable. One of my duties was to get the morning chow set out for the Marines and it was just unbearable to work in those conditions. At about 0300 Olsen walked by still wearing his 40 lb pack and asked if he could help me. I asked him why he would help me with this when he should be getting some sleep since he had patrol in 2 hours. He replied, ‘Well, Sgt Louis today is my birthday. I don’t want to be sleeping it away…besides, what good is a birthday, if you don’t help your brothers”? In honor of the sacrifice of Nigel and Carlos Aragon, their families have established the “Carlos Aragon and Nigel Olsen Enduring Freedom Scholarship Fund” which provides a Mtn. View High School Senior with a scholarship to the college or university of their choice. www.GoldStarStars.com
United States Marine Lance Corporal Carlos Alberto Aragon Of Orem, Utah he was assigned to 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. Carlos was killed in action March 1, 2010, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Carlos A. Aragon was a quiet young man. He never complained. He always looked on the bright side of things and always tried to do the right thing. He loved weight lifting, hiking, skateboarding, and especially his music. He played the guitar fairly well. Carlos loved 70’s rock, and through most of high school he wore his blonde hair long like a 70’s rocker. He loved 70’s muscle cars and tinkering with his classic van. More than anything Carlos loved his mother. He was always respectful. He had a gentle but quick sense of humor. Carlos seemed to believe it was his duty to cheer up those around him. Although average height and medium build, Carlos was a spiritual giant. He cared about his friends and was always concerned about encouraging his friends to be better people. Carlos had a strong faith in God, an appreciation for this country, and our liberty. He also liked the idea of serving his country, giving something back, so Carlos enlisted in the Marines. He cheerfully worked hard at any task before him. He was quick to smile and make a joke, even if it was about himself. This attitude was contagious. His marine buddies loved him for this. He developed an unbreakable bond with his “band of brothers”. He loved those around him more than himself.
United States Army Sergeant 1st Class Ronald Tanner Wood Of Cedar City, Utah was assigned to the Bravo Battery 1st Battalion 148th Field Artillery, Utah Army National Guard, Brigham City, Utah. Ronald was killed in action on July 16, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Kirkuk, Iraq.Ronald Tanner Wood has received the following medals: Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, Ancient Order of Saint Barbara Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, War on Terrorism Medal, and Purple Heart. Sergeant First Class Ronald Tanner Wood was a soldier in the Utah Army National Guard for almost eleven years. In November, 1994, during his senior year at Cedar High School in Cedar City, Utah, Ron became a member of the Headquarters Battery 2nd Battalion 222nd Field Artillery in Cedar City. He was a member of the 222nd when they were activated near the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and shortly after his return from that activation he became a member of the Bravo Battery 1st Battalion 148th Field Artillery in Brigham City, Utah. The 148th was deployed to Iraq, and SFC Ronald Tanner Wood was killed while he was riding in an armored vehicle that was hit by two roadside underground explosive devices on July 16, 2005, near Kirkuk, Iraq. Military generals from Washington, D. C. speaking at his funeral said that SFC Ronald Tanner Wood had positively impacted the lives of over 20,000 military men and women as a teacher of military classes and a mentor to everyone serving with him. Sergeant First Class Ronald Tanner Wood liked to laugh and enjoy life. He enjoyed reading books, listening to music, bodybuilding, weight lifting, and running. Ron was always concerned about everyone else’s needs, and wanted to make sure that his family was happy. He was proud to be a Utah Army National Guard soldier, and he was dedicated and loyal to his fellow soldiers until the end of his life. SFC Ronald Tanner Wood was a true blue national hero, and he is sorely missed by his family, friends, and fellow soldiers.