FORT SILL, Okla. – Seven soldiers, including six from Fort Sill (search), who were killed in Iraq when their helicopter was shot down were remembered Thursday as brave men who died while fighting for their country.
More than 1,000 soldiers, family members and friends packed the Sheridan Theater (search) to pay tribute to the Fort Sill soldiers, who were killed Nov. 2 by Iraqi insurgents.
"They were wonderful young men with a passion for life and who represent all that is great about our country," said 212th Field Artillery Brigade commander Col. Al Schneider (search).
Pictures of all six of the men lined the stage, which was bordered with artillery shells, flowers and U.S. flags. Desert camouflage boots and helmets with the men's names and stripes rested on standing M-16 rifles. Dog tags hung from the gun sights.
"They were courageous men who lost their lives while defending our way of life," Schneider said. "What greater sacrifice is there?"
Meanwhile, more than 200 people packed into Faith United Methodist Church in Genoa, Ill., to remember Army 1st Lt. Brian Slavenas, 30, who also died in the attack.
"I met him as a freshman in high school and I never heard him put another kid down," said Phil Heinisch, one of nine friends who told humorous and sometimes touching stories about Slavenas.
The Fort Sill soldiers killed in the attack were Staff Sgts. Paul Velazquez, 29, San Diego, and Joe N. Wilson, 30, Crystal Springs, Miss.; Sgts. Keelan Moss, 23, Houston, Ross Pennanen, 36, Shawnee, Joel Perez, 25, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico; and Spc. Steven Conover, 21, Wilmington, Ohio. Six more Fort Sill soldiers were wounded.
Fort Sill is a 133-year-old post that does all artillery training for the U.S. Army. Fort Sill has lost 17 soldiers so far in Iraq, and Nov. 2 was the worst single day in the war for the post.