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Memorial honors fallen soldiers of 507th

Christopher Karron, 9, places a poster on a display after the memorial for nine fallen soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Christopher Karron, 9, places a poster on a display after the memorial for nine fallen soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas.

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FORT BLISS, Texas (CNN) -- One was determined and never gave up on any task. Another had a positive attitude and a lighthearted sense of humor. Still another always went the extra mile to help his fellow soldiers.

One by one, the nine soldiers of the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company killed in the war in Iraq were remembered Friday during a memorial service at Fort Bliss, the unit's home post.

More than 1,000 people packed into an auditorium at the base, with the families of the dead soldiers sitting in the front row. Boxes of tissues were placed under every other chair, and scripture and song were offered to comfort those left behind.

Another 4,000 people watched the ceremony in two other locations on the base in El Paso through a video hook-up.

Killed in or shortly after an ambush in Iraq on March 23 were Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto, 18; Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, 35; Spec. Jamaal R. Addison, 22; Pfc. Howard Johnson II, 21; Spec. James Kiehl, 22; Pvt. Brandon Sloan, 19; Spec. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23; Sgt. Donald Walters, 33; and Master Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy, 38.

One of the most touching moments during the memorial service came when Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Rodgers shouted roll call, a tradition in military ceremonies. He called the name of each soldier three times, but got no response.

In front of the audience stood visual tributes to the soldiers. There were nine helmets mounted on nine M-16s, with dog tags looped over the butt of each rifle. A picture of each soldier stood behind the display, with a Purple Heart draped over the frame.

Sgt. 1st Class Kristine Hadano paid tribute to her fallen colleagues by remembering qualities of each one.

She said Johnson, of Mobile, Alabama, "was admired by all who knew him and was deeply religious."

Addison, of Roswell, Georgia, had a quiet competence "and always went the extra mile to help other soldiers."

Unit commander Col. Bob Woods salutes his fallen comrades.
Unit commander Col. Bob Woods salutes his fallen comrades.

Estrella-Soto, a native of El Paso, never gave up on anything, and Sloan, of Bedford Heights, Ohio, had a "lighthearted humor and a positive attitude," Hadano said.

Kiehl, of Comfort, Texas, knew how to adapt and overcome, and "enthusiastically approached assignments," she said, and Walters, of Salem, Oregon, demonstrated leadership.

"Soldiers gravitated to him," Hadano said, noting that the former police officer had also served in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. "He was a cook who fed soldiers more than their daily rations."

Dowdy, of Cleveland, Ohio, was "respected for his competence and fairness," she said, and Mata "always led from the front."

Piestewa, a mother of two and a member of the Hopi tribe from Tuba City, Arizona, was the first woman killed in combat in the war.

"She had a broad smile and friendly disposition," Hadano said. "She was proud of her heritage."

'All gave some, but some gave all'

Bagpipers were part of the solemn memorial ceremony.
Bagpipers were part of the solemn memorial ceremony.

"Every one of us wishes our heroes were back here with us," said Col. Bob Woods, the commander of the unit.

"When a nation goes to war, it is hard on everyone. Soldiers are deployed on the front lines, and families and friends find themselves deployed in front of their television sets.

"The phrase 'All gave some, but some gave all,' becomes very real," he said.

After the ceremony, a group of bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" and led mourners outside for a 21-gun salute to the fallen soldiers.

Five other members of the unit -- which goes by the motto of "Just Fic It" -- are listed as prisoners of war. Video of Spec. Joseph Hudson, 24; Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23; Spec. Shoshana Johnson, 30; Spec. Edgar Hernandez, 21; and Sgt. James Riley, 31, was shown on Iraqi television after they were captured.

Pfc. Jessica Lynch, 19, was also captured but was rescued from a hospital in Nasiriya on April 2 in raid by U.S. Army Rangers, Army Special Forces and aviators, Navy SEALs, Air Force pilots and combat controllers, and U.S. Marines.

She has been recuperating in a hospital at an American military base in Germany, and she and her family are expected to return to the United States on Saturday.


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