Security Forces unveils Defenders Grove at Wright-Patt

Members of the 88th Security Forces Squadron, as well as base leadership and special Gold Star guests, gathered outside the SFS building Oct. 21 for the official ribbon cutting for Defenders Grove.

According to Master Sgt. Nicholas Schwickerath, 88th SFS standardization and evaluation NCO and ceremony co-organizer, Defenders Grove is a commemorative area consisting of 14 trees and three benches. The grove, which cost about $1,400 to complete, was paid for through donations from defenders and private organizations.

Each tree is dedicated to the memory of a fallen SFS Defender who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Next to each tree stands a plaque with the name and short story of the fallen Defender for whom it is dedicated.

“It’s important that we remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Senior Airman Mark DeBatts, 88th SFS vehicle control officer and co-organizer. “You can read about them in books, but when you see a reminder like this every morning it makes it more real and reminds you of why you’re here and what you’re doing.”

During the ceremony Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing commander, provided a few comments.

“I can’t think of a better memorial than this Defenders Grove, it’s a living and enduring reminder of those that have gone before us and why we serve,” said Miller. “This is now a place to come and share stories of Defenders past and present, to grow together and to mentor one another. Take advantage of it and never forget why we do what we do.”

The ribbon officially marking the opening of Defenders Grove was cut by Maj. Julie Roloson, 88th SFS commander, and Don Herwick and Chris Herwick, family of fallen defender, Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin, who was killed while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Today is a good reminder of how special it is to be a defender,” said Roloson. “We are interconnected and close knit, by the time your five or 10 years into your career you will only be one or two people away from knowing anyone in our career field.”

“The names we are memorializing today are more than just names,” she continued. “Even though we may not know them directly, we probably know the people who do.”

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