Staff Sgt. Joshua Albrecht has deployed 11 times in his nine years with the Ranger unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Since 2001, the elite fighting force has gone to Afghanistan and Iraq 15 times for secret, dangerous missions.
When compared with the work carried out by Rangers of past generations, however, Albrecht said the contributions from him and other contemporary soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment are “minimal.”
The Rangers of the unit were legendary for scaling the 10-story French cliffs of Pointe du Hoc to take out German artillery batteries on D-Day, and they fought in some of World War II’s fiercest battles. About two-thirds of 2nd Battalion Rangers who served in that war were killed or wounded.
Albrecht, 28, called it “really humbling” for him and his comrades to receive praise today when they look back at what previous Rangers accomplished.
A new memorial unveiled this week on the parade grounds of the battalion’s year-old headquarters is aimed at tying together the service and sacrifice of Rangers past and present – from France to Grenada, from Panama to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fittingly, the soil that lays the foundation for the memorial includes sand from Pointe du Hoc.
“These Rangers before you are scaling new cliffs with each deployment, refusing to drop the legacy that has been passed by our Ranger forefathers and our leaders that has made this unit the great unit it is today,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Anderson, the battalion’s commander, as his 1,000 men stood in formation.
The 2nd Ranger Battalion was activated for service during World War II from 1943-45. It was reactivated at what was then Fort Lewis in 1974.
Among the names listed at the memorial site are three who died in Grenada, two in Panama and 14 in Iraq and Afghanistan. A separate list is included for the 14 Rangers who died in training.
Two names still need to be added: Sgt. Thomas MacPherson, 26, who died in combat in Afghanistan last month, and Spc. George Libby, 23, who died while training in Afghanistan in 2007.
Some notable recent Rangers listed on the memorial marker include Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij, who was killed in Afghanistan last year on his 14th deployment, and Spc. Pat Tillman, the former National Football League player killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
The memorial’s unveiling caps an 18-month fundraising effort by Ranger veterans who wanted to give the battalion something special.
Retired Col. Mike Okita, chairman of the Pointe du Hoc Foundation, said the secretive nature of the Rangers means most of their achievements never are made public. This memorial will help bring some of those stories out of the shadows.
“The Rangers here, their stories might not be as broadly told as many of our conventional forces, but they truly are unique,” said Okita in an interview before the ceremony. He commanded the battalion from 1998 to 2000.
The DuPont-based nonprofit formed last year aims to raise money to provide services for soldiers, families and veterans of the local battalion.
The foundation wants to build several more granite pillars and archways to pay respects to Rangers who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The memorial is scheduled for completion next year.
Five wreaths were placed near the obelisk during Wednesday’s ceremony to recognize Rangers who died overseas. Rangers in attendance who served in the various conflicts were recognized with applause.
Family members of more than a half-dozen fallen Rangers also attended.
In closing remarks, Anne Rudder Erdman reiterated that the battalion’s commitment to national defense remains as vital today as it was on that day more than 60 years ago when her father, Lt. Col. James Rudder, led the Rangers who stormed Pointe du Hoc.
“It’s important today. It’s important tomorrow,” she said. “It’s important for future generations.”