We often don’t hear about the accomplishments of the 1,200 Fort Carson soldiers who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many helped to establish Iraqi security forces and the government for Iraq.
On Tuesday, the Mountain Post celebrated those wins, and the return of the troops, with a recognition ceremony on post.
“Cavalry Week,” as it’s called, is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the 8,200 soldiers in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. It is also a time to remember those who never came home.
This recognition ceremony was an opportunity to focus on what these men and women did while in Iraq. "Coming back here and having this kind of welcome means a lot to us and means a lot to our families," says 3ACR Commander COL David Teeples.
These soldiers secured the western third of Iraq---an area roughly the size of Wyoming. They hired and trained Iraqi police officers, went on highway patrols and helped establish local interim governments. "What the United States has done for the people of Iraq is amazing. You don’t really feel it unless you've been in Iraq and seen what we've done for that country," says COL Teeples.
During the course of their service, this group earned more than 400 awards for valor and 233 purple hearts. But 49 members of 3ACR never made it home. One of them was SGT Michael DiRaimondo. He was a flight medic and his chopper was shot down during a mission. "He had a burning passion to fly and do what he's doing with his medical talent," says his father. The fallen soldier’s family was on hand, as a new clinic was named in his honor.
SGT DiRaimondo was remembered as a soldier who was stubbornly determined to be a flight medic---even though he lacked the usual rank and training. He achieved both with ease. "It won't bring back my son, but it's tremendous to know that his name will be on it forever,” says SGT Tony DiRaimondo.
The 3ACR soldiers we spoke to say it's nice to be recognized, but they know most of them will eventually return to Iraq.