Memorialized forever, soldiers honor fallen brothers

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (Feb. 12, 2013) ??? On a somber Afghan morning, more than 100 soldiers with 393rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion came together to pay their respects to two fallen brothers as they inducted their comrades into the Hall of Heroes here, Feb. 8.

The ceremony was held to honor Staff Sgt. Robert A. Massarelli and Sgt. Michael J. Strachota. Both were killed when a vehicle armed with explosives crashed into their vehicle while conducting combat operations in Kandahar province, June 24, 2012. Massarelli, a motor transport operator with 96th Transportation Company, 393rd CSSB, from Hamilton, Ohio, was serving on his fourth combat deployment. Strachota, a motor transport operator with 96th Transport Company, 393rd CSSB, from Whitehall, Ark., was serving on his second combat tour.

The Hall of Heroes was constructed during 2007 to recognize and honor Army soldiers stationed at Camp Leatherneck who have perished while carrying out combat operations. The soldiers are honored with a permanent photograph along with a name plaque, both of which are displayed on the wall of remembrance inside the Hall of Heroes.

Lieutenant Col. Louis A. Feliciano, 393rd CSSB commanding officer, spoke of the courage and sacrifice made by both soldiers.

???Today is a day of remembrance to honor the memory of two of our fallen heroes,??? Feliciano said. ???Massarelli???s and Strachota???s actions were of honor and an immeasurable sense of service and commitment to duty. They traversed on a continuous basis throughout the most dangerous routes in Afghanistan.???

During the ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Josue Maldonado, command sergeant major of 393rd CSSB, spoke of the commitment both fallen soldiers made while deployed.

???Their spirits have inspired us to continue pushing forward to the last every day,??? Maldonado said. ???They were warriors who were proud to wear combat boots and combat uniforms. This is not an easy job and only a few people have the courage and commitment to do it. Staff Sgt. Massarelli and Sgt. Strachota showed courage and commitment. They are no longer with us but they are watching all our steps ensuring that we will not fail.???

Feliciano praised the fallen soldier???s sacrifice for their country and for the people of Afghanistan.

???Whatever the task, whatever the mission, Massarelli and Strachota always stood ready,??? Feliciano said. ???Their photographs serve as a symbol of their selfless service to our nation and to the Afghan people. Our nation will be ever grateful for their service. The soldiers of this battalion will never forget Massarelli and Strachota.???