On Friday, more than 100 fallen military police officers were remembered during a wreath-laying ceremony at Fort Bragg.
“It truly is a sacrifice,” said Cheryl Shanaberger, mother of Staff Sgt. Wentz Jerome Henry Shanaberger III, who was killed in 2004 serving in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“In this country, we have people that are willing to guarantee that we have our freedom,” she said. “Those young men and women are sacrificing their lives.”
Shanaberger, who was assigned to the 21st Military Police Company, began his military career in the National Guard. He was called up to active duty to deploy in Desert Storm.
In addition to serving in Kuwait during Desert Storm, the 33-year-old soldier also completed tours in Bosnia, Korea and Panama.
He was investigating a suspicious vehicle in Iraq when he was attacked by a group using small arms and an improvised explosive device, according to published reports.
He left behind his wife and five children.
“He was a family man,” Cheryl Shanaberger said. “He was an amazing soldier. He was dedicated. He thought he was making a difference in the world, and he was proud of that.”
Shanaberger was the first 16th Military Police Brigade soldier to be killed in the Global War on Terror. The unit’s memorial plaza on Fort Bragg is named in his honor.
The brigade has fallen soldiers that date to the 1940s. Since 2001, 67 soldiers from the unit have been killed.
While deployed, the brigade’s soldiers are responsible for protecting United States forces, which includes security escorts, bomb-sniffing dog teams and patrols through towns.
The 16th Military Brigade is the only military police unit with airborne and air assault forces.
Col. Eugenia Guilmartin, commander of the brigade, said the soldiers take pride in their unique capabilities.
In Afghanistan, the soldiers expanded detention operations and partnered with local police to advance prison operations. In Iraq, the soldiers helped develop the Iraqi police force.
“There’s a lot of combat valor and a lot of noteworthy junior leadership,” she said.
Guilmartin said the annual memorial service honors the fallen, allows veterans to reunite and all remember the past.
She said she thinks about the families of fallen soldiers as she leads the somber ceremony.
“I struggle to come up with the right words,” Guilmartin said. “We want them to know their families are loved and the soldiers are loved.”