Senate gives soldiers 'long overdue' acclaim

The state Senate took the rare step Friday of recognizing a Fort Lewis-based Stryker brigade that spent 15 months in Iraq, saying it served with "great distinction and honor."

Sen. Rosa Franklin, a Tacoma Democrat and one of the sponsors of the resolution, said this is the first time in her memory that the Senate has "recognized these brave men and women in this way."

"This day is long overdue," Franklin said.

Col. David Funk, commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, attended the reading, as did six of the 10 soldiers who received the Silver Star for heroic acts. The resolution passed unanimously, and senators and gallery crowd gave the recipients two standing ovations.

Senate Resolution 8709 honors the service of the 3,800 soldiers assigned to the brigade, which fought in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. It honors the sacrifice of the 48 soldiers killed during deployment and the 700 injured. The brigade returned home in September.

The brigade was to deploy for a year, but its tour was extended by three months.

"We all feel the same. We were doing our jobs," said Silver Star recipient Staff Sgt. Jon Hilliard, who was born in Chehalis and grew up in Toledo and Winlock. "Someone felt different and felt we needed to be recognized for our actions."

Sgt. Steven Peters, another recipient, said he was glad lawmakers took time to recognize the fallen soldiers, adding, "That is a great thing."

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or chill@theolympian.com.