'Henkes Lane' rededicated in Mosul

Story and Photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq — A handful of Soldiers from the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, gathered March 21 on top of a hill overlooking the city of Mosul, Iraq, to rededicate a street on Contingency Operating Base Marez in honor of one of their fallen comrades.

Service members often refer to each other as brothers-in-arms, but for one Soldier attending the quiet, informal ceremony, it was not just a figure of speech.

Maj. Linda Bass, the human resources chief for the 13th ESC and a Bessemer, Ala., native, was there to pay tribute to her brother, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes. He died of wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

When Bass first arrived in Iraq roughly a year ago, she visited Mosul and saw the street signs. When she left on leave, she was able to take one sign home to their father in Silverton, Ore., who put it up on a tree next to the lane leading to the family home.

"I tried to keep it in the condition it was in when I got it, weatherworn and dusty," she said. "It had a huge impact on him."

While she took one sign with her, she left something of her own behind: a small shield she wore on her dog-tags, with an inscription from Joshua 1:9 on the back. Henkes gave Bass the shield at her wedding rehearsal dinner. The verse reads: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

She left it at the base of one of the street signs, and an interesting thing happened, said Bass. Before she left Mosul, COL Marez's mayor visited her and handed the shield back, thinking that a Soldier may have left it there in memory of her brother.

"I said to him, 'No, I left this there today,' and he said, 'That's so strange, I wear the same thing on my dog-tags,'" said Bass.

At the rededication ceremony, Soldiers who served with Henkes in 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., were in attendance, including Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Bjerke, who was then 2nd Battalion's senior enlisted adviser, now the 3rd Stryker Bde., 2nd Inf. Div.'s senior enlisted adviser.

"Our heroes that have made the ultimate sacrifice have made a difference," said Bjerke, a Devil's Lake, N.D., native. "By placing a sign, memorializing a street or a (dining facility), this is one of the ways we remember them."

Bass also said a few words during the ceremony, and shared stories about her younger brother. She spoke of Henke's actions the day before he died.

"They were stopped and clearing an area after an IED went off, when Rich (Henkes) noticed a family with a wounded 10 year-old boy," she said.

As the medic worked on the boy, Henkes comforted the family and told them their young son was brave.

"He was an infantryman, but he was a peacemaker," she said. "If he could help one person, that was enough."

Henkes' legacy lives on in his troops and his daughter Isabel, said Bass. After his death, Soldiers in his platoon pooled their money to allow Henkes' family to take Isabel to Disneyland.

"He always talked about his daughter and how he wanted to take her to Disneyland," said Sgt. Rick Martin, an infantryman with 2nd Bn., 3rd Inf. Regt., who served with Henkes in 2006.

"That was his main focus, so it was our gift to him," said Martin, a South Padre Island, Texas, native.

For his sister, who said she could never truly recover from the loss, his legacy serves as a reminder of the great man he was.

"I remember a lot of things about him," said Bass. "I hope nobody forgets him, or all the others that have fallen."

Bjerke took the opportunity to collect the memorial of another fallen Soldier during his visit.

Staff Sgt. Julien Melo was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division when he died in a suicide bombing in Mosul, December of 2006.

"Staff Sgt. Melo was a friend of the family and I want to take his sign home to his wife," said Bjerke.

In light of the memorial, Bass said she began to notice others that units had left behind.

"I became very aware of the memorials," she said. "It would be nice to collect these signs, memorials, for the families."

Bass said she reached out to her congressmen, senators and whoever else she could, including the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national non-profit organization made up of, and providing services to, all those who have lost a loved one on active duty with the Armed Forces.

"I want this to grow into an effort to bring the memorials home," she said. "I hope this rededication will act as a launching pad for a larger effort."

Just a few days after the ceremony, Bass said she received word that United States Forces – Iraq was drawing up orders to facilitate the redeployment of memorials during the drawdown.

"These memorials are really a testament to their sacrifice," she said. "Every one of them has a face, a name that represents their battle buddies' memories."

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Command Sgt. Maj. Alan Bjerke, the senior enlisted adviser with 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and a Devil's Lake, N.D., native, and Maj. Linda Bass, the human resources chief for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Bessemer, Ala., resident, unveil a new sign March 21 dedicated to Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Inf. Div. during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Bass is Henkes' older sister. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah, 13th ESC Public Affairs)

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Maj. Linda Bass, the human resources chief for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Bessemer, Ala., resident, holds a street sign dedicated to her brother, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah, 13th ESC Public Affairs)

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Maj. Linda Bass, the human resources chief for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Bessemer, Ala., resident, takes down a street sign dedicated to her brother, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah, 13th ESC Public Affairs)

 

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Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. (Courtesy photo by Maj. Linda Bass)

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Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes and members of his platoon pose next to their Stryker vehicle. Henkes was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. (Courtesy photo by Maj. Linda Bass)

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Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes and his sister, Maj. Linda Bass, pose for a picture at her wedding. Henkes was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Bass, the human resources chief for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Bessemer, Ala., resident, visited Mosul March 21 to attend a ceremony dedicating a street on Contingency Operating Base Marez, Iraq, in his honor. (Courtesy photo by Maj. Linda Bass)

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Soldiers from the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, pose next to street sign dedicated to Sgt. 1st Class Richard Henkes, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, during the unit's deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2006. Henkes died from wounds received during combat operations in Mosul in September 2006, when his Stryker vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Naveed Ali Shah, 13th ESC Public Affairs)