A memorial ceremony was held Friday for past and present soldiers at Fort Carson.
Members of the Second Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hosted the event.
The annual event is organized to commemorate the battalion’s history and soldiers.
“When we tell their story, we give them honor and recognize what they did,” Lt. Col. Aaron M. Thomas said. “This reminds us that freedom is not free. Family members continue to pay that price every day”
Members of Elijah Rao’s family, including his widow, Leah, were on hand to remember him.
“Hearing the bells brought out some emotions I haven’t had in a long time,” Leah said.
The bells helped break up the deafening silence one hears after losing a loved one.
“They rang 21 times today,” Thomas said. “Once for each 2nd Battalion mission and another for Sgt. Rao.”
Rao was killed by an improvised explosive device during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2009.
Sharon Hauerken is Sgt. Rao’s mother.
“Everybody hopes and prays it won’t be their loved one,” she said. “It happened to be ours, and it hurts. We don’t want anyone to ever forget him.”
Friday’s salute at the Mountain Post provides some comfort in Rao’s and others’ absence.
“My daughter is now 11,” Leah said. “She was only 1 year old when Elijah was killed. There was a lot of crying early on. Now, she has a place to come to remember him, and she can bring her children in the future.”
This weekend is also a reunion to give veterans from different generations of conflict an opportunity to unite and celebrate the past, present and future soldiers of the battalion and its legacy.