White roses lay at the base of nine stone slabs that bear the names of hundreds of Fort Carson soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A ceremony Thursday honored two more names added to that list — Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley and Sgt. Maj. James G. "Ryan" Sartor.

Both men were Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group and died in Afghanistan during the summer of 2019. Riley died from injuries suffered during a "small arms fire" June 25 as did Sartor on July 13

Unable to gather for a ceremony during the height of the pandemic in 2020, active duty soldiers and families of other fallen soldiers came to honor their friends and loved ones ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

"The intent for this day was that we should not only remember those who died in defense of their country but also renew our pledge to aid and assist those who they have left among us," Fort Carson commander Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane said during the ceremony. "It is a call to remember their lives, their courage, their legacy, and their service. It is a day to remember, recognize and honor the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen soldiers."

For Kenneth Bower, an Army veteran and Fort Carson firefighter, the day is a reminder of how close he came to that sacrifice. 

Oct. 2, 2004 Bower went on what was supposed to be a routine mission in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood when his M-113 armored personnel carrier was hit by an explosive.

"I was kept in Landstuhl, Germany for roughly 33 days in a coma," Bower said. "I was, at the scene, resuscitated. I was technically what they say, dead, for 97 seconds."

Bower came to Thursday's memorial service to honor those who didn't survive Iraq.

"It really shines a whole new light on the meaning of paying the ultimate sacrifice," Bower said.

Among the rows of faces seated at the service was Cindy Lisco. She came to honor some of the men who served with her son in Afghanistan.

"He's deployed right now, but he was with them," Lisco said. "It was really a nice ceremony and I was glad I could represent my son."

Lisco leaned over the stone to etch a copy of her son's friend's name, Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, onto a sheet of paper.

"He was special," Lisco said, her voice choked up with emotion.

Other families walked through the memorial to place white roses beside the stones.

The ceremony included bagpipers, the presentation of a memorial wreath and a solemn salute to the fallen.

"I think the importance of this is it connects our young soldiers, our young men and women, with their past, with their lineage over the past 20 years," Col. Nate Springer, the post's garrison commander said.

Cpl. Mason Patterson took the ceremony to heart.

"It kind of lets us see the bigger picture of things," Patterson said. "Most of us here, we don't see combat on a daily basis, we work in offices and motor pools. But when we come out here, we see that people do lay their lives down for the country."

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