'Spartan' brigade honors its fallen

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 19:33
New memorial unveiled on JBER
Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Gardner, left, and Col. Morris Goins unveil a memorial in honor of 14 fallen paratroopers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division on Friday, Nov. 16 on JBER.

Described as a “soldier’s soldier” by a member of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Private 1st Class Vincent Ellis was killed in action protecting his fellow “Spartans.”

While deployed in Afghanistan, Ellis suffered a knee injury and was reassigned to Forward Operating Base Salerno for rehabilitation. When the base was attacked June 1, Ellis — restricted to a brace and crutches — didn’t hesitate.

A vehicle borne improvised explosive devise breached the base’s perimeter and gunfire broke out. Ellis secured a weapon and ran toward the machine gun fire, according to the Army.

After laying down fire to allow two soldiers to advance to the next point of cover, Ellis was mortally wounded by an apparent explosion as he followed, the Army said in a press release. Though the blast left him blind in one eye and disoriented, Ellis managed to reach the combat support hospital with assistance.

He later died from injuries sustained in the explosion.

Ellis, “acting with complete disregard for his personal well being, directly saved lives … that day,” the Army said.

Ellis is one of 14 fallen paratroopers whose name is engraved on a new memorial in front of brigade headquarters on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. A dedication was held Friday, Nov. 16 to honor those soldiers who died during the nearly yearlong deployment.

At an early age, Ellis expressed interest in joining the military, his father, Brian, said.

Brian Ellis, who serves in the Navy, made his first trip to Alaska from Suffolk, Va., to get closure in his son’s death.

“This is the last step,” he said. “It doesn’t end the grief, but it certainly encloses the loop.”

His trip to JBER also gave Brian Ellis and his family a chance to meet the men and women who served with Vincent in his final months.

Like his family, Vincent’s fellow Spartans remembered him as a fun person to be around, Brian Ellis said.

“They’ve got a pretty consistent story about him,” he said.

The brigade commander, Col. Morris Goins, said the 14 fallen troops paid the ultimate sacrifice while carrying out their mission — which was to provide security in the Khost, Paktya and eastern Paktika provinces in Afghanistan.

“I will honor you and the fallen by living my life to the fullest,” Goins told a room full of family members and soldiers.

A choked-up Goins didn’t hide his emotions.

“Let the tears flow,” he said before concluding his speech with a quote from Washington Irving.

“There is a sacredness in tears,” Goins said. “They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.”

Missing out on the rest of his 22-year-old son’s life — marriage, children, etc — is the toughest part of losing Vincent, Brian Ellis said.

“How much of his life we won’t see,” he said.

But, Brian Ellis said, his son’s selfless actions will forever be remembered.

“He makes us very proud,” he said.


Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or [email protected]

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