Nevada Guard remembers, eulogizes shooting victims
106th Public Affairs Detachment
CARSON CITY, Nev. – Few moments in life tug on the heartstrings more than the playing of Amazing Grace on bagpipes after the death of three battle buddies.
It’s the type of moment that makes grown men cry.
Grown men did just that Sunday at the memorial service for Lt. Col. Heath Kelly, 35, Master Sgt. Christian Riege, 38, and Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31, at the Combined Surface Maintenance Shop building on the grounds of the Office of the Adjutant General in Carson City.
The three Soldiers were gunned down Tuesday by Eduardo Sencion, 32, at the IHOP on South Carson Street.
“Death will not triumph over their good names,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said during the memorial.
Speakers included Nevada Adjutant Brig. Gen. William Burks, Army Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Frank Gonzales, and Command Sgts. Maj. Steve Sitton and Daryl Keithley.
“Today is a day for us all to begin to heal,” Burks said. “Today is a day to swap stories.”
“This is very, very difficult,” Gonzales said. “A fog has rolled in and we have to work to lift it.”
Keithley was headed to a National Guard Bureau conference in Washington D.C. before he heard the news of the dead and flew back to Nevada.
Keithley said the last time he saw McElhiney, she was serving cupcakes at a promotion ceremony, as she often did at Guard events.
“I told her I was on a diet,” Keithley said. “She said, ‘Sergeant major, the lemon-flavored ones are the diet cupcakes. I put a smile on my face, picked up a cupcake and ate it.”
Keithley also recalled approaching Riege about his purchase of a 1960 Pontiac GTO earlier this year for Hot August Nights, a classic car show in Reno.
“I said, ‘It must be nice to be rich,'” Keithley said. “(Riege) put on that big grizzly smile of his and said, ‘Life’s short. You only live once. You got to get the stuff you want now.'” I said, ‘You’re right.'”
Kelly was remembered for his dry humor and love of the Louisiana State University football team.
“What got him really fired up was anything to do with LSU football,” Sandoval said. “He was a Tigers fan to the core.”
Sgt. Cait Kelley of the 17th Sustainment Brigade and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Mock of Joint Force Headquarters sat in attendance in the front row. Kelley and Mock were in the IHOP when the tragic event occurred and were injured.
“It’s a story too awful to be told,” said Kelley, who wore a full-leg cast at the event.
The service ended with a final roll call and a playing of taps.
For the roll call, 1st Sgt. Roger Wheeler of Joint Force Headquarters, called out the names of three Soldiers in JFHQ. The first three responded.
No one responded when he called Kelly’s name.
“Lt. Col. Heath Kelly!” Wheeler continued.
No one answered.
He then called the names of Riege and McElhiney.
No one answered until a Soldier stood up and yelled, “First sergeant! Lt. Col. Kelly, Sgt. Riege and Sgt. McElhiney are not in this formation!”
The final tribute brought overwhelming emotion to the estimated 700 in attendance – and grown men began to cry again.