212th Fires Bde. celebrates anniversary, remembers fallen hero
Capt. Traun C. Moore,
212th Fires Bde. Public Affairs:
The 212th Fires Brigade celebrated the first anniversary of its activation as the Army’s newest fires brigade during a ceremony at East Fort Bliss Aug. 15.
The day was not only a celebration of the hard work and accomplishments of the “Gunstone” Soldiers over the past year to build the brigade into a fully functional warfighting unit, but also a day of remembrance and reflection for a fallen Gunstone hero who served with distinction and honor.
The Gunstone family welcomed the loved ones of Staff Sgt. Joe N. Wilson, who served in A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 212th Field Artillery Brigade, out of Fort Sill, Okla., during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Wilson’s mother, Maxine Adams, Wilson’s widow Erika Beatty, and Wilson’s brother in arms Sgt. Joseph Mlinar, and his wife, were on hand to help commemorate the life of Wilson in the dedication of the brigade’s parade field in his honor.
On Nov. 2, 2003, Wilson and Mlinar, along with 34 other Soldiers, were flying in a CH47 Chinook helicopter enroute to Baghdad Airfield when their helicopter was struck by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade. Sixteen servicemembers were killed in the attack and 20 were wounded. Mlinar credits Wilson with saving his life.
“The explosion obliterated the rear engine and rotor. The hydraulic fluid and fuel began spraying and instantly caught fire, setting the entire rear of the helicopter on fire. Staff Sergeant Wilson and I were sitting in the back with the fire,” said Mlinar addressing the crowd. “The heat got so intense that I tried covering my face from being burnt, but Staff Sergeant Wilson pulled my head and body on top of his lap, shielding me from the flames.
“The front rotor quickly failed and we rapidly descended and crashed onto a nearby field,” Mlinar continued. “The impact knocked me unconscious for several minutes, but I quickly came to. Laying in the wreckage and surveying the damage, I realized that I only suffered a crushed lower left leg. By shielding me from the flames, Staff Sergeant Wilson acted as my cushion upon impact.”
Mlinar said being part of the ceremony and dedication of Wilson’s memory gave him “a great sense of pride, joy and honor to be able to speak to the Soldiers of the 212th FiB as we honor the memory of Staff Sergeant Wilson. I want to keep his memory alive by sharing his story. The dedication of the parade field will have a lasting impact in honoring his life and his family.”
“It’s always important for our Soldiers to reflect on our unit history and to remember and honor the incredible Soldiers who served before them,” said Col. David Hamilton, brigade commander. “In many ways, our predecessors established a foundation and set standards we continue to build on. Staff Sergeant Wilson, through his actions, personified courage, selfless service and sacrifice – values important to all Soldiers. By dedicating the Gunstone field in his honor and continuing to tell his story, we reinforce those values.”
“The dedication and one-year anniversary ceremony was a defining moment in my young military career,” said Pfc. Joel Smith, of Headquarters and Headquarters Btry., 212th Fires Bde. “It meant a lot to me personally to be able to present Ms. Beatty, the widow of Staff Sergeant Wilson, with flowers in honor of her late husband.”
At the end of the ceremony Soldiers and family members moved to the brigade dining facility for refreshments in honor of the accomplishments of the past year.
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