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Fort Drum remembers two soldiers killed in Afghanistan in April

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FORT DRUM — The lives of two fallen 10th Mountain Division soldiers were remembered by division leadership, fellow soldiers and their families at a ceremony on post Thursday.

Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard and 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, both of the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, were killed April 23 by enemy missile fire. The two had been in Afghanistan for less than a week when they were killed.

Speaking at the post’s Memorial Park, Lt. Col. Enrique Ortiz Jr., rear provisional commander for the aviation brigade, said the two were dedicated soldiers who served their country without asking for anything in return.

“Aaron and R.J. gave their tomorrow for America’s today,” he said.

During the ceremony, fellow soldiers spoke highly of the pair’s character.

1st Lt. Andrew S. Mars, of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, said Capt. Blanchard, who also had served in the Marine Corps, was a great mentor while they were going through ROTC together at Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Wash.

“He never made excuses to get out of anything,” Lt. Mars said. “He always made time for everything.”

Lt. Mars attributed his choice to go into aviation to his mentor. Outside of his Army work, Lt. Mars said, Capt. Blanchard also had a love of music and hunting elk.

“Not even flight school could keep him out of the woods,” he said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Edward S. Adomy III, also of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, said Lt. Hess’s “larger than life” personality could be seen easily from the enthusiasm he had for his work — all the way to his unusually large cellphone, which led to some light ribbing from his fellow soldiers.

“With hands this big, you need a giant phone,” he remembered Lt. Hess responding.

The two had been friends since going through flight school together, with Chief Warrant Officer Adomy pointing out that Lt. Hess’s hard work and studying allowed him to choose to fly a Blackhawk, the helicopter his father had flown. Arriving on post in November, the two shared an apartment together.

Chief Warrant Officer Adomy marveled at Lt. Hess’s athleticism, pointing out his four high school state titles in swimming and football and the fact he swam collegiately at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.

“He was a warrior you would eagerly follow into combat,” he said.

A large delegation from the families of both soldiers was also in attendance at the ceremony. Capt. Blanchard is survived by his wife, Rebecca, and two children, Hunter and Amalia, along with his parents, Donald Blanchard and Laura Schactler, brothers, Michael and Karl, and grandparents. Lt. Hess is survived by his parents, Ret. Col. Robert and Laura Hess, and brother, Patrick.

Members of both families declined to speak with the Times following the ceremony.

Capt. Blanchard and 1st Lt. Hess are the 10th Mountain Division’s 294th and 295th combat deaths since Sept. 11, 2001.




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