Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor couldn’t go anywhere in Falcon without bumping into someone he knew — he was just that kind of guy.
That sentiment was shared widely among the crowd of over 200 people who stood outside Jaks Brewing Co. Wednesday evening for a candlelight vigil, honoring the fallen Fort Carson Green Beret.
Sartor, 40, died Saturday in Faryab Province in Afghanistan from injuries suffered in combat involving small-arms fire, the Army said. Though he was a native of Texas, he and his family had lived in Falcon for years and had become an influential force in their community.
As Sartor’s family walked through the crowd, dozens of people stood solemnly holding candles. In a testament to the standing of the man who knew everyone from everywhere, the crowd was made up of an assortment of community members — the Falcon High School football team, the Green Beret Special Forces motorcycle club, Holy Cross Lutheran Church members.
“We come together tonight not as a community that’s divided,” began the Rev. Doug Brauner. “In our country, we’re divided over many things. But not tonight. Tonight, we’re here to support and care.”
Sartor was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson. He had been in the Army since 2001 and had been a Green Beret since 2005, the Army said.
Falcon has a community tree planted just outside Jaks brewery, seen by many as a symbol of the town’s resiliency. Propped against the tree Wednesday was a framed photo of Sartor. His wife, three children and other family members sat on the bench next to it with what seemed like the entire town of Falcon wrapped around them.
“It’s not fair, “Brauner said. “We thank (God) for his sacrifice that allows us to be here and gather tonight, and the freedom we have to do this not fearing that something is going to happen because we are gathering. He protected that freedom.”
Sartor had served seven deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, according to a news release from the Army Special Operations Command. He first deployed to Iraq as an infantryman in 2002. As a Green Beret, he was deployed in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. He also deployed with the 10th Special Forces Group to Afghanistan in 2017 and 2019. Sartor’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters. He was awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star Medal posthumously.
Sartor was widely known as a leader, one of the many shining qualities his friends spoke of at the vigil.
“He was the best man that I’ve known,” said Travis Cain, a former teammate of Sartor’s, through tears.
“In my entire life, there has been nobody who’s influenced me like him … he just set an example of what a man’s supposed to be like, a man that serves.”
Cain was with Sartor when he was killed and helped bring his body back home.
“None of us saw this as a possibility because we just thought he was bulletproof,” he said.