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NEWS | May 29, 2024

Kentucky National Guard remembers recently fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

By Spc. Georgia Napier, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

For the U.S. Armed Forces, Memorial Day transcends picnics and pool days. It is a solemn day of remembrance for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation’s freedom. For the Kentucky National Guard, it is important to remember those who have sacrificed while preparing for duty stateside and overseas.

“Since 1921, thousands of men and women have served in the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard. Many of our fallen were killed in action on the battlefield,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Stoops, the master of ceremonies for the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Day remembrance. “Numerous others succumbed to illness, injuries, and disease, serving in foreign lands and here at home. Some were called to duty to help our neighbors in other states, but never made it back to their families.”

Citizen-Soldiers face more than battles against the enemy; they confront the dangers of floods, tornado debris, border patrol duties, and supporting law enforcement agencies during times of crisis. They balance the everyday responsibilities of civilian jobs and families while being ready at a moment’s notice.

“There are those who died closer to home, who died while helping their fellow Kentuckians during times of disaster, and during social unrest,” said Stoops. “Finally, there are those that died tragically while training.”

As he reflected on his past military experiences in Panama, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Haldane B. Lamberton said, “It was in that moment that it really dawned on me there is very much a risk to what we do.”

This Memorial Day was especially important to the Kentucky National Guard as most of the five fallen Soldiers honored had died in recent years at the Boone National Guard Center.

Scattered throughout the audience were mothers, fathers, children, and friends, and all gathered to pay tribute to those who have fallen while serving our country in various capacities.

The five names etched into the KYNG Memorial were: Maj. George N. Hembree, Maj. Travis E. Riley, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Natalie A. Wamsley, Sgt. 1st Class Derrick K. Pool, and Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie L. Patrick, II.

Maj. George N. Hembree died in 1954 from a massive head injury after being struck by a gasoline truck. He was serving on Title 10 federal active-duty status at the time of his death and was returning home on medical leave from Honolulu, Hawaii. An all-around college athlete and Veteran of World War I, Hembree was a Medical Administrative Corps officer.

Maj. Travis E. Riley died in 2019 from a service-connected illness and was a decorated combat Veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Riley joined the Army at 18, later serving in the Kentucky National Guard's 198th Military Police Battalion and rising to the rank of major.

Sgt. 1st Class Derrick K. Pool died in 2021 from injuries sustained when the motorcycle he was operating ran off the road at night and struck a tree. He was serving on Title 32 active guard-reserve duty status at the time of his death. Pool served 15 years with the Kentucky Army National Guard and was the readiness noncommissioned officer for the 438th Military Police Company, as well as a Veteran of the Iraq War.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Natalie A. Wamsley died in 2021 due to cancer while serving on Title 32 active guard-reserve duty status. She came from a long line of Veterans, but she was the first woman in her family to join the military. As an enlisted Soldier and noncommissioned officer, Wamsley served as a human resources specialist at the company and brigade levels, including a deployment to Iraq in 2011. At the time of her death, Wamsley was serving as a human resources technician for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 138th Field Artillery Brigade, in Lexington, Kentucky, and had been appointed to Warrant Officer 1 in 2018, at the same time she had discovered the cancer.

Sgt. 1st Class Johnnie L. Patrick II died in 2022 of a cardiac condition while serving on Title 32 full-time National Guard orders to support southwest border security. Patrick served in the Kentucky National Guard for over 20 years and wore many hats to support the Guard in various capacities.

"Memorial Day is a day where families come together. They enjoy picnics, they enjoy the pool, and that's okay,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “That is what our servicemen and women have fought for to be in a country so free--so secure--you can enjoy that time with your family…we've got to understand that there are individuals who gave up those moments--gave up those years with those families--so that we could have days like Memorial Day, and other days.”

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