Staff photo by Aaron Aupperlee
Trees in memory of fallen 11th ACR soldiers and vehicles recounting the regiment's history dot Jerry Wayne Wickam park at Fort Irwin. The ‘Yano helicopter’ sits at the park's entrance to the right.
July 17, 2007 - 5:58PM

Park memorializes casualties from Fort Irwin

FORT IRWIN — Twenty-one trees line a concrete path winding through a park in the center of Fort Irwin. Twenty-one polished rocks sit next to the trees bearing the name of 21 soldiers.

On Monday, the 11th Armored Cavalry dedicated Jerry Wayne Wickam Park in memory of the 21 11th ACR soldiers who died during the regiment’s deployment in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. During the ceremony, soldiers lifted a red cloth off each plaque individually, Sgt. Jeff Caskey said.

During their deployment, the regiment lost 13 soldiers from Fort Irwin and eight soldiers from the Mississippi National Guard attached to the regiment.

“We treated them like our own, and we honor them like our own,” Caskey said.

The park, named after the regiment’s second Medal of Honor recipient, Cpl. Jerry Wayne Wickam, contains several tanks and helicopters, all with ties to the history of the 11th ACR.

The helicopter at the entrance to the park, a UH-1 from Vietnam, is the same aircraft in which the regiment’s first Medal of Honor recipient, Rodney J.T. Yano, lost his life in 1968. Yano, left partially blind and with the use of one arm by a white phosphorous grenade that prematurely exploded inside the helicopter, saved his fellow crewmen by hurling detonating and flaming ammunition from the aircraft.

Caskey said 11th ACR Vietnam veterans recognized the tail number on the helicopter while touring a museum and arranged to have the “Yano helicopter,” as it is known, shipped to Fort Irwin.