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2 Local Soldiers Among Those Remembered In Ceremony in Afghanistan

Posted Jul 22, 2012 by Howard Altman

Updated Jul 22, 2012 at 11:44 AM

Last week, SSgt Ricardo Seija, 31, of Tampa and Spc. Clarence Williams III, 23, of Brooksville came home in flag-draped coffins after being killed in the same attack in Afghanistan.

On July 14, a memorial service was held for all six killed in the attack at their forward operating base.

I obviously couldn’t be there to cover it, so I figured I would pass along this account provided by the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System and written by Sgt. Michael Sword.

987th MPs honor soldiers killed in IED Blast

Story by Sgt. Michael Sword

WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A memorial ceremony was held at Forward Operating Base Airborne July 14, 2012, in Afghanistan’s Wardak province to honor six soldiers who were killed in an IED blast, July 8, 2012.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija, U.S. Army Spc. Trevor Adkins, U.S. Army Spc. Erica Alecksen, U.S. Army Spc. Alejandro Prado, U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Stambaugh and U.S. Army Spc. Clarence Williams III, all of 978th Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion, were killed when their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle hit an IED while on a route clearance patrol.

Capt. Jessica Johnson, commander of the 978th, spoke to her soldiers during the emotional and solemn ceremony.

“We have felt a full range of emotions over the past few days,” Johnson said.  “We have shed tears of sorrow and felt anger over this tragic loss, but we must not forget the pride they took in the service of our nation.”

After the commander, six came forward to speak about their fallen teammates, their soldiers, their leaders, their friends. 

“I have never done this before, but I am truly honored to stand up here and speak on behalf of Staff Sgt. Seija,” said Staff Sgt. James Keller.  “I am honored to have served with Seija and to call him a friend.  We will all miss him greatly and he will always have a place in my heart.”

Spc. Christopher Lethcoe then stepped to the podium to speak on behalf of Sgt. Trevor Adkins.

“Now that he is gone, I will never see or remember Adkins as the innocent kid or the little brother of the squad,” he said.  “I’m going to remember him as a man and hero that gave his life for something greater than himself. He will be remembered as a brother and loyal friend, who was taken from us far too early.”

“So I say in closing, goodbye Adkins, my brother, my friend,” he added.  “Though you are gone from this world you are not forgotten.”

Sgt. Gerald Cramer then spoke for Spc. Erica Alecksen, his first driver when he became a team leader for 3rd platoon.

“I can say that she has been by far one of the most motivated soldiers I have met in my military career,” he said.

Recalling a story told between two non-commissioned officers in the 978th, “You could tell Alecksen to climb to the top of a mountain and say get me these two rocks, and she would reply ‘yes, sergeant’ and move out.”

“Now, whether you get two rocks or five was a complete coin toss, but she was always motivated and never believed in quitting anything,” he added. “Spc. Erica Alecksen will always be remembered as our comrade, our sister, and more importantly, our hero.”

Sgt. Steven Storm was next, speaking about his soldier, Spc. Alejandro Pardo. 

“Pardo was placed in my team and we immediately hit it off,” he began.  “Over the last couple months I spent a lot of time with Pardo, he was a great soldier but an even better friend.”

“It’s a horrible loss to not have Pardo with us anymore and I would like to stress to his family how sorry I am for their loss,” he said.  “I cannot even imagine what they are going through.”

“The last thing I told Pardo was, ‘I Love you like a brother and I’ll see you again,’” he added.  “I’m going to stick to those words, Pardo I love you like a brother and I will see you again.”

Spc. Emcie Aleman then addressed everyone, speaking about Spc. Cameron Stambaugh.

“Where do I start with Stambaugh,” Aleman asked himself.  “Nineteen-year-old kid from Pennsylvania and it’s fair to say everybody who knew him will agree he was the funniest kid that you could possibly ever meet.”

“His team leader used to tell me how lucky he was, picking by chance, Stambaugh to be part of his team,” he said.  “He was smart, humble, positive, a great teammate and no matter the circumstances, always in a good mood.

“I feel very sad and it feels like my heart’s about to stop. I lost a teammate, a comrade but most, a friend,” he added.

Staff Sgt. Jeffery Clark spoke last, closing out the tributes speaking about Spc. Clarence Williams III. 

“I have had the honor and privilege to work with and call Spc. Williams a friend for quite some time,” said Clark.  “There are so many things to say about Spc. Williams but first I would say that he was a man of God, he knew that when all else failed and he had nowhere to turn, he could always turn to the word for inspiration and peace.”
“Serving his country meant a lot to him,” Clark went on.  “At times where people said he couldn’t, he still found a way to show them he could. He never took ‘no’ for an answer and always found a way to do things better than the next person.”

“Spc. Williams, it’s hard to say goodbye but one day we will all meet again,” he said.  “You, my brave warrior, have done an awesome job, your call to duty is exceptional and you will forever be in our hearts and minds, for you are a true American soldier.”

After the roll call by the 978th’s first sergeant and the playing of “Taps,” everyone in attendance paid their final respects to the six fallen heroes.

“To honor the memories and sacrifice of our fallen heroes, know that we will not back down from the enemy we face,” said Johnson.  “Although heavy hearted, this unit has the discipline, the toughness and the fighting spirit to not only continue, but to exceed all expectations.

“We are the 978th MP Company and we will always be better than any enemy we ever face,” she said.

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