Celebrating life, remembering those lost

Maj. Gen. Bennie Williams
21st Theater Support Command commanding general

***image1***Earlier this year, I was at my desk when word reached me that the first 21st Theater Support Command Soldier had been killed in action in Iraq. Kaiserslautern’s Spc. Jonathan Kephart, 230th Military Police Company, was killed in April during a ferocious battle in Baghdad. I knew full well that this might, and almost certainly would, happen during our sizable deployment to Iraq, but the reality still caught me off guard.

A commander’s brain is besieged with questions when he or she hears news like this. Had I provided his chain of command with the right resources and opportunities to train? Had we given him good equipment to defend himself? And armor to protect him? Could I have somehow prevented this?

Sadly, there are no correct answers to these questions. I just don’t know if different training or equipment would have spared this Soldier’s life. What I do know is that it made me review what we’ve been doing to prepare our Soldiers for deployment, and verify that I’ve done everything possible to help them prepare. Since that time, three more Soldiers from the 21st TSC have also given their lives in the mission of creating a safe and stable Iraq.

Sgt. Tatjana Reed and Spc. Torey Dantzler, 66th Transportation Company in Kaiserslautern, were killed when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in August. In November, Pfc. Cole William Larsen, 272nd Military Police Company in Mannheim, was killed when his vehicle collided with an Iraqi vehicle while on patrol in Baghdad. In addition to these losses, dozens of 21st TSC Soldiers have been injured – some severely – while doing their duties in Iraq.

I bring this up now because it has truly brought home to me the debt we owe to these brave and courageous American Soldiers. During this holiday season, it has also made me take an introspective look at my life and realize how precious it is to me. I hold close to my heart the fact that I have a wonderful family, who love and support me, and that I am so fortunate to be a member of this command, which does vital work and supports tens of thousands of military and family members all over Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.

As a Soldier who has been serving for more than 30 years, I have the utmost respect and awe for our spouses, who must care for the family alone, and wait and worry while we travel all over the world, in and out of combat situations, for weeks or months at a time. It takes a very special – and patient – person to be a military spouse. My own wife, Lenora, has my greatest respect, devotion and gratitude for her unwavering support during my long career. I sincerely hope that all married Soldiers, Airmen, and Department of Defense civilians feel the same way toward their wives or husbands as well, because they truly deserve it.

I would ask all KMC members take the time to reflect on all that they have and to rejoice. Loving families, good health and supportive friends and colleagues are real treasures.

I hope you are blessed with a strong sense of faith, which will help you through the most trying of times, as I know it has done for me on many occasions.

Thank you for all that you do, serving your nation in a time of war. To each of you, I wish long life, good health and happiness, and I pray that you have a safe – and very enjoyable – holiday season.