Orlando Sentinel – War Memorial


Orlando Sentinel – May 31, 2011
By Ludmilla Lelis

                                               Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel / May 30, 2011
Katy McGahan, grandmother of 2nd Lt. Michael E. McGahan, who was killed in action in Afghanistan, gets a hug from Patrick M. Deans, father of Army Cpl. Patrick D. Deans who was killed in action in Afghanistan, during the annual Orange County War Memorial Rededication Ceremony to honor Orange County residents who have died in service of their country, on Monday in Orlando.  Standing to the left is Col Tom Walters, USAF (Ret), CFVMPF Board Member.
Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at Orange County’s war memorial was bittersweet for 87-year-old Bill Coleman, a veteran of World War II.

He savored that he could share the morning with his grandson, 20-year-old Army Spec. Rory Coleman, who had just come home on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan.

But the former Army staff sergeant, who had parachuted into France as an 18-year-old and became a prisoner of war, couldn’t shut out a few recollections he prefers to forget.

“You try not to get back into those memories,” said Coleman, who wore his World War II uniform at Monday’s ceremony. “I don’t know how anybody who’s ever been in combat can ever forget. It hurts, but it’s important to remember.”

The ceremony offered a solemn moment to remember fallen warriors, especially 2nd Lt. Michael E. McGahan and Cpl. Patrick D. Deans, at the war memorial at the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs unveiled the names of McGahan and Deans, which are now etched into the memorial’s dark marble, joining a long list of those killed or missing in action, as far back as the Second Seminole War, through the Civil War, both World Wars, the Vietnam War and other conflicts, culminating with Iraq and Afghanistan.

McGahan, a graduate of Olympia High School who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida, served with the 1st Brigade Special Troop Battalion and was killed June 6 in Afghanistan.

Deans was a corporal with the 2nd Battalion and died in December in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

Monday’s ceremony also honored Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, who died in 2008 while protecting his platoon during an ambush by insurgents. He recently was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

“These three men shared love of country, duty, and selfless service,” said guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe with U.S. Central Command. “But the most important similarity is they joined the U.S. military – and the most superior ground force of the world, the U.S. Army — during a time of war.

“They knew they would serve their country in a combat zone. They knew the risk, but they put their fears aside and stepped forward. True American warriors.”

Deans, a graduate of Timber Creek High School, had already finished his military service and had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan when he decided he wanted to go back into battle, said Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Carlos Espinosa, a friend of his father, Patrick M. Deans.

“He said, ‘Those young guys need me.’ Yet he was only 22 years old.”

A month before he died, the younger Deans posted on his Facebook a reminder of what it means to be a soldier. He said it was akin to writing out a blank check, payable to the United States, for an amount up to and including his life.

McGahan had always been a natural leader, remembered his grandmother, Katy McGahan. She recalled summer days when he enjoyed paintball with his cousins.

On the day before he was killed, she spoke to him, and was relieved to know that he was well, eating well, and proud of his battalion. “He was happy and he was proud because he had just had the chance to give his soldiers a medal for their service,” she said. “It makes me proud.”

Jacobs choked up for a moment when she spoke about McGahan, who was a friend of her son. “There was nothing but good to remember about Michael McGahan, never an unkind word, never a moment when he didn’t earn everyone’s pride and respect.”

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