Deuce Four Fallen Warriors

LTC Kurilla, commander of 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, forwarded the following comments he will make during a memorial service for 1LT Aaron Sessan, SPC Tyler Creamean, and SGT Ben Morton on Saturday, May 28th in Mosul, Iraq. He said, "I offer these comments to give everyone a small glimpse into the lives and sacrifices of three incredible men."

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GEN Rodriguez, GEN Bergner, COL Brown, Sergeants Major, friends of Deuce Four, and most importantly the men of Deuce Four. Thank you for coming today to honor and remember three of our fallen warriors.

Forgive me if I go long but these were extraordinary men.

Again we are drawn together as a band of brothers to mourn the loss of three Deuce Four warriors and sappers. We are truly a band of brothers. The bonds of camaraderie and friendship that we share from fire team to battalion are as strong as the very bonds of marriage. These bonds are forged and bound under the stress and fire of daily combat. We are bound together in shared friendship, shared hardship, shared loss and a desire over any other to ensure you care for the man on your left and right flank.

William Shakespeare in Henry V describes the bond that we all share. At the battle of Agincourt in 1415 AD, the English were outnumbered 5 to 1 and faced a formidable French foe that blocked their return route to England. The English were certain that no one would make it out alive. Henry V turned to his men to tell them about the uncommon bond that is shared in combat. He states –

“From this day to the ending of the world. But we in it shall be remembered; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother.”

Today we mourn the loss of three brothers in arms – 1LT Aaron Sessan, SPC Tyler Creamean, and SGT Ben Morton.

Deuce Four with our Sapper brothers have done extraordinary things for one reason and one reason only. It is because of extraordinary men. There is no piece of equipment that makes us successful, there is no technological advantage that is the key to winning, there is no special training we possess that turns the tides against the enemy. It is for one reason and one reason only that we are successful – the extraordinary men that make up this organization. Men that know that leadership means just that – leading – out front, in harms way where they are at the greatest risk. Extraordinary men that would sacrifice their own lives for their fellow soldiers. Men who place the needs of others above their own. Men who accomplish every mission for no reason other than they do not want to let down their brother in arms.

LT Aaron Sessan and SPC Tyler Creamean were out front leading on a Stryker sweep. These were men that knew the cost of leadership – out front exposing themselves to risk. A Stryker IED Sweep by its very name implies great danger and risk. You are traveling the most heavily mined and bombed roads in Iraq not trying to avoid the mines and bombs but actually trying to find them. Why? So that others can travel safely without fear of attack. Stryker sweeps are not an exact science as the enemy has become very adept at hiding his mines and bombs. It requires experience, incredible skill, patience and being out in front of the other combat patrols and logistical convoys. Sappers LT Sessan and SPC Creamean were out front leading a Stryker IED sweep. They risked their lives so that others might be safe. Our brothers in arms, LT Sessan and SPC Creamean made the ultimate sacrifice for others when their vehicle was hit by one of the very IEDs they were looking for. But it did not end there, while they were mortally wounded LT Sessan and SPC Creamean kept trying to direct medical attention to each other and PFC Buck who was also wounded. That is what leaders do – they place the needs of others over their own, even when they are mortally wounded. These Sappers were incredible men that will never be forgotten.

I would now like to talk about a very special person and leader with whom I had daily interaction, someone I fought next to, and one of the finest men I have had a chance to get to know – SGT Ben “Rat” Morton.

If there was someone that defined the term quite professional it was Rat.

Rat was special and quite frankly I do not think I ever heard him called anything else. I remember one time someone said “Morton” and I said, "who?" " Rat sir". "Oh"…I didn’t now we had a Morton, but I damn sure knew we had Rat. I am not sure he even knew he had any other name. It even extended to the battlefield. I am not sure what day it was – but we were somewhere in northwest Mosul doing a cordon and search. Rat was carrying the radio – I heard the call on the net on my PRC-148 “Hunter Three Romeo, this is Hunter Seven over..there was a pause for about 3 seconds…more agitation in his voice, Hunter Three Romeo, this is Hunter Seven over…another pause of about 3 seconds. Damn it Rat answer the radio!…then came the calm response,… this is Rat over…” that was Rat.

Rat knew about leadership and courage under fire. On the night Rat fell, he was leading his team clearing a house of a terrorist cell that specialized in car bombs. They quickly detained three of the terrorists on the first floor and moved rapidly up the stairs with Rat in the lead. The house had at least three women and 5 children on the first floor, some of them infants so they decided not to use flash bangs which can kill an infant. There were two terrorists that were hiding in a back room and they moved to the balcony in the hopes they would not be caught. Rat was the #1 man into the room, followed by his team. The terrorist hiding on the balcony knew they would be certainly caught and reached around the corner and fired an AK-47 on full automatic through the window hitting Rat four times. The team returned fire and cleared the rest of the house. Rat’s sacrifice resulted in killing one terrorist, wounding one, and detaining 5 members of a car bomb cell. Rat was awarded an ARCOM with Valor device for his actions that night. Rat knew that leaders lead from the front. I also know there is not a man in Deuce Four that would not want to be the #1 man entering and clearing a room of terrorists.

Rat also showed me how to laugh in the worst of situations. It was 11 Dec and we had just been hit by a suicide car bomb followed by very heavy small arms, RPGs, and mortars from 3 directions. We now had seven wounded and a Stryker was on fire. Rat and Plum were the first ones on the scene with fire extinguishers in hand putting out the fire, caring for wounded comrades, and then rejoining the fight. Strykers with dismounted teams were holding a tight perimeter against 25 insurgents that were attacking from 3 directions. An RPG had just hit one of the Strykers and two mortars landed right behind Rat’s Stryker. We had a fix on one enemy position to the SW. We were doing out best to rubble the building with .50 cal and Mark-19 and fast movers were still 5 minutes out. Rat grabbed a SMAW-D which would certainly rubble the building. As he raised up the weapon, 2 more mortars landed in our perimeter within 20 meters of Rat’s Stryker. He fired and the SMAW-D impacted about 30 meters in front us – we even thought it was a larger enemy mortar. Rat smiled, laughed and yelled out over the fire fight – “This one was defective – what do you expect from a Marine weapon…” You see, the SMAW-D was designed by the Marines; however it has to be aimed to hit its target…

Rat did many more amazing things that day that I do not have the time to share. Rat was awarded the Bronze star for Valor for his actions on 11 Dec. He was a hero to all of us. He is now in heaven taking pictures from an incredible vantage point. He is finding and collecting things so that when we join him and go to him and ask if he has a certain item – he will smile and return with just the item you needed.

To the men of Deuce Four we now honor our 14th warrior and sapper to die defending the freedom of an oppressed people that truly do not understand the sacrifices that we make. The only words I think that can describe their sacrifice are not even my words. They are the words of Winston Churchill in WWII describing the sacrifices warriors make. He states:

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

You see – there are 26 million people in Iraq whose freedom we are fighting for, against terrorists and insurgents that want a return to power and oppression, or worse, a state of fundamentalist tyranny. Some of these we fight are international terrorists that hate the fact that in our way of life we can choose who will govern us, the method in which we worship, and the myriad other freedoms we have. We are fighting so that these fanatical terrorists do not enter the sacred ground of our country and we have to fight them in our own backyard. We fight for 296 million US citizens in America. We fight for the man on your left and right so that he can return home to his family and loved ones --we fight for each other. LT Aaron Sessan, SPC Tyler Creamean and SGT Ben Morton fought for all of us. Never was so much owed by so many to so few.

These three warriors joined the rest of the Deuce Four Advance Party. CPT Bill Jacobsen is in charge of the formation while 1SG Bordelon called out the names to make sure all are present. SPC Tommy Doerflinger, CPT Bill Jacobsen, SGT Robert Johnson, CPL Jonathan Castro, SPC Lionel Ayro, PFC Oscar Sanchez, SGT Nathanial Swindell, SGT Adam Plumondore, SPC Clint Gertson, SGT Anthony Davis. 1SG Mike Bordelon, SPC Tyler Creamean, 1LT Aaron Sessan, and SGT Ben “Rat” Morton. These 14 warriors now stand high above us overwatching us, providing guidance and direction in the most difficult times. Never was so much owed by so many to so few.

On this day, we ask almighty God to grant us patience and steadfast resolve in all that is to come. We ask the Master Physician to reach down and use his healing hand to heal our wounded brothers. May God Bless Deuce Four, 1st Brigade, and may God Bless America.