Memorial service honors Va. Guard Soldiers killed in action 10 years ago

Current members of the Virginia National Guard's Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team assist family members of Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry and Sgt. Bobby Beasley lay wreaths to honor their memory at a ceremony Aug. 1, 2014, in Winchester, Va. Both Soldiers were killed almost 10 years ago when an improvised explosive device destroyed their vehicle Aug. 7, 2004, during a patrol near Ghazikel in eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Current members of the Virginia National Guard’s Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team assist family members of Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry and Sgt. Bobby Beasley lay wreaths to honor their memory at a ceremony Aug. 1, 2014, in Winchester, Va. Both Soldiers were killed almost 10 years ago when an improvised explosive device destroyed their vehicle Aug. 7, 2004, during a patrol near Ghazikel in eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

WINCHESTER, Va. – Current and former members of the Virginia National Guard’s Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team joined family and friends of Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry and Sgt. Bobby Beasley for a memorial ceremony to commemorate their loss and honor their memory Aug. 1, 2014, at the Winchester readiness center that was named in their honor. Beasley and Cherry, both infantrymen assigned to 3rd Battalion’s Headquarters Company, were killed when an improvised explosive device destroyed their vehicle Aug. 7, 2004, during a patrol near Ghazikel in eastern Afghanistan.

“Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry and Sgt. Bobby Beasley were examples of the finest products created by America: dedicated, loyal and good natured,” said Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, Virginia National Guard Land Component Commander and 3rd Battalion commander in 2004 in Afghanistan. “They were true friends who cared deeply for their fellow Soldiers. Craig Cherry and Bobby Beasley were more than Soldiers, more than friends or family. They are inspirations that still shine and inspire to this day, and I am a better person for knowing them.”

Current 3rd Battalion Soldiers assisted family members in placing wreaths to honor both men, and a candlelight vigil followed after the ceremony ended.

“Staff Sgt. Cherry was all business, and he never missed an opportunity to train and mentor Soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Mark Nelson, the commander of Headquarters Company in 2004. “Sgt. Beasley was the kind of Soldier who would bend over backwards to meet the mission and take care of Soldiers. He subscribed to the same philosophy as Staff Sgt. Cherry when it came to making sure the new and more junior Soldiers knew their jobs.”

Cherry, a native of Winchester, was 39 at the time of his death and was married with three children. He served in the U.S. Army from 1983-1987, then served in the Michigan National Guard from 1987-1998 before transferring to the Virginia Guard in late 1998.

Beasley, a native of Inwood, West Virginia, was 36 at the time of his death and married. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1980-1992 and, after spending one year in the Navy Reserve, he enlisted in the Virginia Guard in 1993.

The deaths of Beasley and Cherry marked the first combat deaths of mobilized Virginia Guard Soldiers since the end of World War II in 1945. No Virginia Guard units served in theater during the Korean or Vietnam wars and while eight units served in Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991, no Soldiers were killed in combat. One Virginia Guard Soldier died during Desert Storm as a result of non-combat injuries suffered in a vehicle crash.

To honor the sacrifice and memory of these two Soldiers, their operating base in Afghanistan was renamed from “Camp Bulldog” to “Camp Cherry-Beasley.” In addition, two training villages located at Fort Pickett are named in their honor. A dedication ceremony was held in October 4, 2009, to name the readiness center in Winchester in their memory.

Nelson described the two men as “brothers” and said their “spirits will be a driving force” for today’s Soldiers.

“They will always be in our hearts, and they will stand for freedom and the truths we hold so dear, ” he said. “This is the legacy of Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry. This is the legacy of Sgt. Bobby Beasley. Their’s was the role of leader, follower, mentor, teammate, friend, husband and father.”

Nelson asked the men and women who currently serve in 3rd Battalion to carry the legacy of the two fallen Soldiers forward with them, just as athletes who will slap a mascot on the way out of a locker room for good luck. “Tip a hand and slap the door jam as you walk out of the Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center to train and perform missions and take a piece of Staff Sgt. Cherry and Sgt. Beasley with you.”

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