Fredericksburg readiness center dedicated in honor of Va. Guard Soldiers killed in 2004 Iraq bomb attack

Family members and friends, along with past and present Virginia National Guard Soldiers, join together to honor fallen warriors Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason and Sgt. David A. Ruhren at a memorial ceremony and readiness center dedication Dec. 6, 2014, in Fredericksburg, Va. Mason and Ruhren were killed in action during a suicide bomb attack that killed 22 people and injured 70 on Dec. 21, 2004, on Forward Operating Base Marez, in Mosul, Iraq. The ceremony marked the official dedication of the readiness center as the Mason-Ruhren Readiness Center. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Family members and friends, along with past and present Virginia National Guard Soldiers, join together to honor fallen warriors Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason and Sgt. David A. Ruhren at a memorial ceremony and readiness center dedication Dec. 6, 2014, in Fredericksburg, Va. Mason and Ruhren were killed in action during a suicide bomb attack that killed 22 people and injured 70 on Dec. 21, 2004, on Forward Operating Base Marez, in Mosul, Iraq. The ceremony marked the official dedication of the readiness center as the Mason-Ruhren Readiness Center. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Nearly a decade after a 2004 Iraq suicide bomb attack took the lives of Sgt. Nicholas C. Mason and Sgt. David A. Ruhren, their families, friends and fellow Virginia National Guard Soldiers joined together Dec. 6, 2014, in Fredericksburg, Va., in a ceremony held to remember their sacrifice and dedicate the Fredericksburg readiness center in their honor.

Mason and Ruhren were killed in action Dec. 21, 2004, on Forward Operating Base Marez, in Mosul, Iraq, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest in a mess tent, killing 22 people, including 14 U.S. troops, and injuring 70 more. Both Soldiers were assigned to Company A, 229th Engineer Battalion and were mobilized with the 276th Engineer Battalion.

“We have gathered here today to recognize the loss of two warriors,” said Col. James Zollar, the keynote speaker for the event who served as the executive officer the 276th Engineer Battalion at the time of the attack. “In conducting this act we ensure that the sacrifices made in war will not be forgotten with the passage of time.”

Following remarks by Lt. Col. Charles Martin, the 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion commander, Maj. Colin Noyes, the current commander of the 276th Engineer Battalion, Zollar and Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, Maj. Beau Mason, the master of ceremony for the event, surprised the Mason and Ruhren families, along with several other attendees, by announcing that the wreath laying listed in the event program would not be happening and that instead the readiness center would be dedicated in their name, as the Mason-Ruhren Readiness Center.

“I can’t even put it into words. It’s amazing,” said Sonja Ruhren, Sgt. Ruhren’s mother, on the dedication. She said she had no idea the armory was going to be named for her son, and that he, always humble, would have been shocked as well.

“It’s absolutely impressive that 10 years later Nick and David still mean this much to the community and to the Guard,” said Christine Mason, Sgt. Mason’s mother.

Vic Mason, Sgt. Mason’s father, said, “The Guard is a family because the Soldiers are from the community and they stay in the community and do they so much for the community.”

The parents of both Mason and Ruhren spoke about the love the men had for the fellow Soldiers and for the incredible support they’ve received from their communities, to include the Virginia National Guard community, over the past 10 years.

“If we talk about the National Guard as a whole, they were his family,” Ruhren’s mother said. She says when he came home on leave from Iraq before the attack, he didn’t seem like he wanted to be home. She said she was frustrated with him and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t glad to be home, why he didn’t seem interested in spending time with her or his friends. Finally, he told her, “While I’m here, something could happen to them, and I’m not there to protect them.”

Ruhren’s mother says that’s when she realized how important his fellow Soldiers were to him. “He always, always loved them,” she said. “They were his brothers and sisters.

Following the unveiling of a replica of the sign dedicating the readiness center, Soldiers conducted a final roll call for Mason and Ruhren. The roll call is a final tribute paid by Soldiers to their fallen comrades. It has its origin in the accountability roll call conducted by the first sergeant following combat and is called with the conviction that all unit members will be accounted for and none will ever be forgotten, according to U.S. Army doctrine.

For young Soldiers who come to the newly-named readiness center, Mason’s parents said they want them to know what good Soldiers Mason and Ruhren were, that they embodied all that it means to be a Soldier.

“They never stopped,” said Mason’s mother, Christine.

Both Mason and Ruhren joined the Virginia Army National Guard after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, at the age of 17. They completed their initial military training in 2003 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and were then assigned to Company A, 229th Engineer Battalion.

Mason, a native of King George, was 20 at the time of his death. He is survived by his father Vic Mason, mother Christine Mason and sister Carly Mason. He was a 2002 honor graduate of King George High School where he was a star wrestler, cross-country runner and track athlete. He completed his freshman year at Virginia Tech and was preparing for his sophomore year before being called to active duty with the Virginia Guard.

Ruhren, a native of Stafford, was 20 at the time of his death. He is survived by his mother Sonja Ruhren. He graduated from Garfield Senior High School in 2002 where he was active in many extracurricular activities including wrestling and football. He was one of the first members of the Garfield Senior High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC Program when it was established, and was promoted to the rank of cadet lieutenant by the first semester. While serving in the Guard, he took classes to become an EMT at the Rock Hill Fire Dept in Stafford.

The ceremony closed with the playing of “Taps” by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Carr of the 29th Division Band.

“We owe Sgt. Nick Mason and David Ruhren a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice that cannot be repaid,” said Martin. “They’ll never be forgotten.”

Photos on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157649638424965/

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