The 9th Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne), along with Family, friends, and other members of the Military Information Support Operations Command community, gathered at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum to pay tribute to one of their fallen brothers in arms, a year to the day after he died in combat.
Sgt. Clinton K. Ruiz made the ultimate sacrifice Oct. 25, 2012, during a combat mission in the Oruzgan province of central Afghanistan. His wife, Kira, and two-year-old son, Caleb, were among the distinguished guests.
“As we dedicate this stone to Clint’s memory today, the purpose is first and foremost to honor his sacrifice, but is also to give those of us with empty hearts a place to go heal, a place to go and begin filling the empty space in our hearts,” said Maj. Joshua Wilhelm, Ruiz’s detachment officer in charge and narrator for the event.
Those who spoke at the ceremony described Ruiz’s character, as a man who loved life, a leader whose contagious positive outlook affected everyone he came in contact with — someone who was genuine, sincere and honest.
“He was a strong NCO; very promising,” said Maj. Rustie W. Kim, Ruiz’s company commander. “He inspired everybody around him, and he continues to do so, even after his death.”
The Soldiers who served with Ruiz raised almost $3,000 to pay for a granite paver stone to be placed in the ASOM Memorial Garden.
“Clinton was my good friend, and I figured the least we could do is make him a stone here so we would all have somewhere to go,” said Sgt. Julie Truong, 9th MISB taskings noncommissioned officer. “He’s buried in California, so a lot of us who are stationed at Fort Bragg didn’t get the chance to go out to California, especially when most of us were (still) deployed. It seemed pretty important to make a place that we could go to remember him.”
Ceremonies such as these serve to help those left behind remember the sacrifice of their brothers in arms.
“It’s always important to do an event like this so that folks don’t forget,” said Kim. “It was a year ago; it’s one of those things, we get tied up in our day-to-day (activities) ... we just forget about. It was important for us to do it on the anniversary date as a reminder that there are still folks out there sacrificing, and not to forget his sacrifice.”
Once the formal observance had commenced, attendees were invited to view the memorial paver, dedicated to Sgt. Ruiz. The first to step forward were Kira and Caleb. Caleb, a spitting image of his father, stood next to the paver, pointing down while saying, “Daddy, daddy.” All the Soldiers, in full dress uniform, stood silent with all eyes on Caleb, a reminder of the importance of one person’s life.
“He was an exceptional person, not just a Soldier and he deserves to be remembered,” Truong said.