Slain soldiers remembered
Tribune News Service
CARSON CITY, Nev. – After the stories were told and the honors bestowed, the Last Roll Call on Sunday was like a punch to the gut.
“Major Heath Kelly. Major Heath Oscar Kelly,” First Sgt. Roger Wheeler called out in the crowded hangar at the Nevada National Guard in Carson City.
Into the deafening silence the second call went, “Master Sgt. Christian Riege. Master Sgt. Christian David Riege.”
And finally, “Sgt. 1st Class Miranda Mc Elhiney. Sgt. 1st Class Miranda Summerwind Mc Elhiney,” was answered only by sobs.
Hundreds of family and friends, including Gov Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller and a representative from Sen. Harry Reid’s office, gathered for the memorial service of Army National Guard soldiers Kelly, Mc Elhiney and Riege, three of the four people killed Tuesday in a mass shooting at the IHOP in South Carson. Civilian Florence Donovan-Gunderson was also killed.
Five soldiers eating breakfast were among the eleven people shot by Eduardo Sencion, 32, in a senseless act of violence just before 9 a.m. that stunned the community and nation. Sencion then shot himself.
In attendance were Sgt. Cait Kelley, 25, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Mock, 32, the two soldiers who survived the shooting. Kelley, who was released from the hospital last week, was in a wheelchair with a bullet wound to the foot. Mock, released on Saturday, had his arm in a sling.
Staring silently at the crowd were photographs of the slain, framed by the Fallen Soldier Battle Cross of combat boots, a rifle with a helmet balanced on its stock and dog tags.
“Since last Tuesday’s tragic event, we’ve seen an outpouring of sympathy. Throughout Nevada we’ve seen an overwhelming expression of shock and sadness,” said Sandoval. “On the eve of 911, this tragedy became for many a powerful reminder of the nation’s loss on that day.
“Three of our best have died this week and we’ve gathered here today to ensure that death will not triumph over their good names.”
Sandoval called Kelly an “everyman. A military history buff with a dry sense of humor.”
Of Riege he said, “Master Sgt. Christian Riege was a dedicated family man who had a penchant for all things fast, as evidenced by his recent purchase of a 1965 metallic green GTO.”
“Sgt. 1st Class Miranda Mc Elhiney was a bright spark in this organization,” said the governor. “She perservered through adversity always with that winning smile and committed herself to excellence every single day.”
Brig. Gen. Bill Burks said the gathering was an opportunity for people to rally together.
Brig. Gen. Frank Gonzales said the loss was devastating.
“I saw five of my soldiers impacted by the terrible nature of humanity,” he said. “It all hurts when you don’t understand why.”
Fairview Drive was lined with people waving American flags and at some points during the ceremony motorcycle engines from the Patriot Guard drowned out the speakers.
“Chris Riege was an NCOs NCO. He led the way. He set an example for everybody to follow,” said Gonzales.
Riege is survived by his fiance Stacia Green, and his children, Serrah 16, Erica 13, Sydne 12, and Michael, 8.
“Sgt. Mc Elhiney was the most focused NCOs that we’ve ever had,” he said.
Mc Elhiney is survived by her mother and daughter Lily.
“Heath … was an outstanding leader. He was one of the most dedicated and conscientious hard-working officers in the Nevada Guard. He was a battle tested warrior and he loved the Army,” said Gonzales.
Kelly is survived by his wife Tracy, daughter Cassidy and newborn son Tristan.
“Along with our guard family his community mourns. Four of our innocent citizens were struck down. The psychological wounds are ones that will change this entire commuity forever,” said chaplain Maj. Hal Woomer.