An Infantryman who served in Afghanistan, Corporal Deans had been deployed to the Kandahar Region of that war-torn country, where his actions earned him a host of medals, including the Purple Heart, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge, among others. The tour of duty he was serving last December would tragically be his last. On Dec. 12, 2010, a suicide bomber rammed a minibus into the combat outpost that Deans’ unit was stationed in. The explosives contained in the jeep killed six soldiers, including Deans, who was 22.
Today, at the start of the Memorial Day weekend and in honor of the holiday, the Orlando VA Medical Center hosted a Memorial Day Ceremony conducted by Timber Creek Air Force Jr. Reserve Officer Training Command Cadets. The ceremony was also held in recognition of Corporal Deans, in part through a reenactment of the Guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown. The tomb was set up under the flagpole next to the Community Living Center.
“Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier” read the front of the tomb, as the Orlando VA Medical Center’s chaplain, Doug Weadick, provided the invocation at the start of the ceremony.
“Today we commemorate those who gave their lives in the defense of others,” Weadwick said. “We appreciate our troops serving overseas at this time. May the world be a better place someday because of their service.”
Deans, of Orlando, joined the U.S. Army in June 2007. On the day he was killed, the soliders were all Infantrymen assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airbone Division.
The suicide bomber drive the minibus past the Afghan Forces at a checkpoint in the Zhari District of Kandahar. The vehicle contained 1,000 pounds of explosives, and the bomber drove the minimbus into Strong Point DiWar and blew out one wall of the newly constructed combat post. Six soliders inside, including Deans, were killed instantly, and 11 others were injured.
Deans served in Iraq during his first tour of duty, and was sent to Afghanistan when he reenlisted. On his Facebook page, Deans posted on his wall on Nov. 10, “A Veteran is someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including their life. That is beyond honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer remember that fact.”
It was a fact remembered by those attending the ceremony today.
“May all that we do in this ceremony today bring honor to our troops, to our nation, and to our God,” Weadwick said.
Cadet Major Emily Youngman, representing the Timber Creek Air Force Jr. Reserve Officer Training Command Cadets, noted during the ceremony that Memorial Day was originally called Recognition Day.
“It is, however, difficult to prove conclusively the origins of this day,” she said. But as the holiday went through different meanings and interpretations over time, one thing stayed consistent, she said.
“They all tapped into a need to honor the dead,” Youngman said. “Memorial Day is not about division, it is about reconciliation.”
That’s why the ceremony, Youngman added, was held in honor of Deans and all American veterans who answered the call to duty, including “those who have helped protect our nation’s ideals,” she said. “They stood tall in the face of grave danger.”
As the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” was played over the loudspeaker, the Timber Creek cadets placed Corporal Deans’ boots in front of the memorial tomb, as well as his rifle, with his helmut put on top of it — the helmut of the warrior it once protected. A photo of Corporal Deans was also placed there.
A wreath was also set in front of the tomb, and it was announced that the Honor Guard would change guards every 11 minutes for the next hour in recognition of Corporal Deans.
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