Three South Carolina National Guardsmen killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored with a new memorial dedicated Saturday in Aiken County.
All three served with the same explosive clearing unit based at the Guard’s Graniteville Armory.
Members of the 1221st Route Clearance Engineering Company dedicated the fallen Soldier Memorial Saturday in honor of Cpl. Matthew Dillon, Staff Sgt. Willie Harley and Sgt. Luther “Will” Rabon.
“Their job is the most dangerous job that we had in Afghanistan,” Lt. Col. Chris Hyman, executive officer of the 1221st’s parent command 59th Troop Command. “They went out ahead of everyone to locate and destroy improvised explosive devices (IEDs) so that when other units came through, they did not have to worry about the threat of IEDs hitting their vehicles.”
Dillon deployed with the 1221st to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and was a recipient of the Purple Heart for injuries sustained from a roadside bomb in 2004. He re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and deployed again to Iraqi Freedom in 2006. Dillon was later killed in Anbar province, Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device on December 11, 2006.
Harley and Rabon were deployed with the 1221st to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan when they were killed Oct. 1, 2010, in Paktika province. National Guard officials said the two died from wounds sustained when insurgents attacked their military vehicle with an IED while they responded to a second vehicle in distress.
“This memorial was a lot of hard work by a lot of hardworking people,” Capt. Christopher Huber, commander of the 1221st, said during the ceremony. “It’s a place for us to come to reflect. Anyone is welcome here to think about a fallen comrade.”
The memorial is a large brick wall that circles a flagpole. Part of the wall is built in the shape of a US Army Engineers castle, while a metal cast of boots, rifle and helmet sits at the base of the flagpole.
“We never want to forget our comrades that paid the ultimate price, the ultimate sacrifice to our country,” Lt. Col. Hyman said.