View Full Version : Sacrifice of service members honored in Riverside tribute

09-10-07, 07:07 AM
Sacrifice of service members honored in Riverside tribute

10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

The moms, dads, wives and sweethearts who paid respects on Sunday to a Southern California soldier and three Marines said the men should be remembered not because they died too young but for their willingness to serve a cause greater than themselves.

The annual Moms of Military "Remember Our Heroes" tribute featured the unveiling of canvas banners with pictures and brief biographies of Army National Guard Sgt. Rhys Klasno, of Moreno Valley, and three Orange County Marines killed while in uniform.

"They recognized the reality of sacrifice," said keynote speaker Danny McKnight, a retired Army colonel who served in Somalia and whose exploits were told in the book "Black Hawk Down."

"They step up so we can enjoy a safe and secure environment," McKnight said. "What's important is for people to understand what these people have done and what their friends are still doing today. All of them are out there stepping up, so we can be safe. And they will do it over and over and over again."

Klasno's parents, Michael Klasno and Lynn Jardinico, and his widow, Stephanie, came to the unveiling at the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside. Stephanie Klasno brought her daughter, London Eevie Klasno, who was born almost three months after Rhys Klasno was killed in Iraq in May at age 20.

The banners will hang from light posts in several California cities before moving on to Arizona, Nebraska and possibly other states. The nonprofit group AmericanHeroesTribute.org has created banners for 160 American troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Twelve hang along Van Buren Boulevard.

"This is amazing," said Stephanie Klasno, 20. "I think he would like this."

Michael Klasno, 56, said the family "has good days and bad days" but ultimately believes their faith will see them through Rhys' death.

"We're going to be OK," he said.

Event organizers said they expected 500 people to attend Sunday's tribute, which also honored people serving today and those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. There were photos and slideshows of men and women wearing their dress uniforms and combat fatigues. Some people wore T-shirts with images of loved ones on the front lines.

The families of Army Sgt. William Dean Richardson, of Moreno Valley, and Army Ranger Spencer Timothy Karol drove customized pickups to the remembrance. Each truck came decked out in red, white and blue and included tributes to the fallen soldiers. Richardson, 23, died in 2005, in an ambush in Baghdad. Karol, 20, died in a roadside bombing attack in Ramadi in 2003.

"You have to survive," said Bridget Madison, 52, Karol's mother. "You don't have a choice."

Madison, of Morongo Valley, said she became part of the Patriot Guard Riders, which provides motorcycle escorts at the funerals of war casualties, as a way to overcome her grief.

Bill Richardson became involved in the organization Gold Star Families, which serves as a sounding board and support group for survivors of those who died.

"Our pride never diminishes," said Richardson, 52, whose son's banner hangs in Riverside. "Maybe if we can jerk a tear from people, what happened (on Sept. 11) won't happen again."

The loss of Army Staff Sgt. Eric Cottrell, 39, a 1986 graduate of Rubidoux High School, weighed heavily on the minds of his parents, Alan and Doeshie Waters, of Riverside.

He was killed in Iraq three weeks ago while serving as a combat medic with the 1st Cavalry Division.

"There are no words to describe the loss," said Doeshie Waters, 58. "No words."

Reach Joe Vargo at 951-567-2407 or jvargo@PE.com