Brigade honors fallen paratroopers

First ‘Sparta Week’ held on JBER


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Brigade commander Col. Matt McFarlane stands next to a wreath he laid by a memorial honoring the 81 Spartans who have died in combat in the brigade's eight-year history Friday, Sept. 6.

Star photo by Mike Nesper

The first “Sparta Week” celebrating the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division wasn’t all fun and games.

In the midst of five days of activities that included athletic competitions, a barbeque and a ball, the “Spartans” paused to honor 81 of their fellow paratroopers who have died in the brigade’s eight-year history.

“They all gave the last full measure of devotion to the same noble cause,” brigade commander Col. Matt McFarlane said on a drizzly Friday, Sept. 6 outside of 4/25th headquarters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Standing next to a memorial bearing the names of fallen Spartan paratroopers, McFarlane said honoring the dead goes beyond etching their names in stone.

“We don’t just remember them,” he said. “We honor their memory with our actions each and every day.”

Pfc. Shawn Falter is one name on the memorial.

Falter was killed six years ago in Iraq. Before deploying, one of Falter’s brothers asked him not to go.

Falter replied: “It’s my job. My buddies need me.”

As MSgt. (ret.) Andrew Lucas told this story about his stepbrother, he turned his attention to the active duty paratroopers in attendance.

Lucas said he was proud of the professionalism Falter showed. That same professionalism is being carried on by the Spartans today, he said.

While new to JBER, Sparta Week isn’t a new idea. Many bases around the country hold similar events, McFarlane said following the ceremony.

“We wanted to take a week to celebrate the unit,” he said.

The event, which ran from Tuesday, Sept. 3 through Saturday, Sept. 7, featured military and non-military contests such as a triathlon, a bike race and an assault course competition.

Spartan spouses had the chance to participate in a challenge called G.I. Jane Spouse Appreciation Day where they competed in airborne familiarization, military vehicular shooting simulations, vehicle rollover training, an obstacle course, a tire flip event and at a sports fire shooting range.

Sparta Week was held to highlight the 3,800-member brigade and strengthen camaraderie. McFarlane said he plans to make it an annual event on JBER to honor all past and present Spartans, especially each of the names displayed on the memorial outside of 4/25th headquarters.

“We wouldn’t be here celebrating anything today without the sacrifice of those 81 paratroopers,” he said.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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